For years this very vague version of Christmas has been floating around my mind. In this version, there is no chaos, no hurriedness, no cleaning, no messes, no loud noises, no shopping, no cooking, and especially no illnesses. It’s the “how it should-be”, or at least the “how I imagine it would be if I were much holier” version of Christmas. Unfortunately that doesn’t leave me with much, since those things fill up a pretty hefty part of life for the mother of many.
I think moms with littles can fall prey to wanting Christmas to be exactly what it isn’t and never was: simple and easy.
We think that surely Christmas is about quiet reflection and pondering silently with our coffee in one hand and Bible in the other. That real holiness lies in uninterrupted thoughts and long stretches of time gazing at the Jesse tree. That if we were further along in our sanctification we’d chuck this madness called Christmas and relinquish our duties to shop, prepare food, decorate and celebrate. Surely these extravagant feasts and gifts are a little over the top. We may even feel guilty for participating, as if by making snowman cookies with the kids we cheapen this holy time. We worry about too many presents and decide to do less next year.
Strip Christmas down to its essence, we think. Get rid of all this clutter. Christmas should be easier, we’re sure. But it hasn’t been that way from the beginning. From Mary hopping on a donkey and birthing in a stable, to terrified shepherds and shouting angels, to Herod’s horrible decree, to wise men bringing their gifts and their worship under a giant star. Christmas is a spectacle.
Yet we want Christ to come to us and bring external peace to our circumstances at Christmas. We want him to make young needy children, less needy; to make time-consuming food preparations quick and hassle-free; to make relational tensions with family disappear; to make getting ready for guests, seamless; to make the trek to relatives’ houses unhurried and simple; to make all this work on our to-do list, not work.
But Christ came to rule in our hearts, not change our circumstances. He came to give us the kind of heart that looks at the to-do list and sees a hundred ways to bless her family and extend that blessing to hundreds more. Through his perfect life, death and resurrection, Christ came to undo our small-minded resentments at our work and replace them with willing hands and thankful hearts. Christ came to change our ideas of simplistic solo holiness and instead he put us in families.
What has God entrusted to you this Christmas? Is it the privilege of hosting family, friends, neighbors or co-workers? Then welcome people in Jesus’ name and show them how extravagant God’s love is. Is it traveling to someone else’s home? Then go willingly in Jesus’ name and be a blessing. Is it making Christmas memories for your immediate family? Then do good to them by celebrating Jesus in ways that minister to every age represented. Is it caring for sick people and missing out on everything you’d hoped for? Then do for the least of these as you would for Christ.
This Christmas Jesus wants from us the same thing He always wants: death to our selfish desires and made-up notions of holiness and absolute joy and loyalty to Him. He’s bought our faithfulness so that we can make the food, set the table and wrap the gifts in the strength He supplies. The Prince of Peace has come and He can make our love multiply a hundredfold in Jesus’ name, even, maybe especially, during the chaos of Christmastime.