When I was a young child, my over-achieving personality kicked into high gear at Christmastime. I was determined each year — using my father’s money — to buy the “hot” new appliance for my mother. This led to an array of hot-dog cookers, hamburger cookers, crepe makers, popcorn machines, and other trendy finds.
One especially memorable Christmas, I was heading back to the car, holding my latest and greatest gift for my Mommy. A gust of wind blew past and knocked my four-foot frame and my precious present to the ground. I cried out in pain — why was God punishing me for trying to do a good deed?
My mother calmly explained to me that not everyone approached the holidays the way I did. She indicated my “let’s top last year” mentality was an overindulgence, and that it would be wise to scale back my expectations.
As a result of that experience at a young age, I learned an important lesson about simplifying my celebrations. As I matured and became a mother, these guidelines have proven even more critical to de-stressing my life and the life of my family:
Step One: Keep Christ as the center. In the end, it doesn’t matter if the Christmas tree matches the tinsel-topped wonder at your local department store. What is truly important is celebrating the incarnation of Christ. It’s also easier to deal with all sorts of yuletide troubles — from toddler meltdowns to teenage angst — if you maintain a laser focus on Jesus.
Step Two: Slow down. This was a common admonition from my mother, since I have a bad habit of trying to race through life. Take time to smell the roasted turkey. Feast your eyes on the stars populating the winter sky. Don’t rush so much that you miss the precious smile on your child’s face, or fail to take time to embrace your loved ones.
Step Three: Remember that perfection often results from the most imperfect of circumstances. Your favorite Christmas might actually be the time the electricity went out and you shared Christmas memories by candlelight. Or the time a stranger rescued you from a minivan breakdown along the highway. It’s been my experience that, when things go wrong, God can mend together the broken fabric of our lives to create something truly spectacular. The “perfect” Christmas may be filled with a Santa’s sack worth of imperfections.
Step Four: Remember joy. In racing from Christmas concert to Christmas bazaar to Christmas pageant, you can sometimes lose your sense of joy. Remember that the baby Jesus is the source of our joy, and the reason that we can gain a ticket to heaven. Keep joy at the forefront of this amazing season.
Step Five: Be thankful for the little things. A piping hot cup of cocoa … a comfy woolen sweater … the star on the Christmas tree. These are all little things, but being grateful for them can have a big impact on your Christmas celebration.
So don’t overload yourself with chores this time of year. Instead, savor the season, and celebrate the reason for our lasting happiness—the miracle of the newborn in the manger. And consider keeping the spirit of Christmas in your heart all year long.
Copyright 2018 Maria V. Gallagher