Before I was married and had children, the Christmas season wasn’t really on my radar. I saw it as a welcome break between the fall and spring semesters in school, when I would reorganize my books, sleep in, maybe watch a movie or two with friends.
One Christmas a friend of mine and I were the only 2 students left on our college campus. The campus police knew we were there in our little dorm (an old farmhouse), all cozy under that snow packed roof. On Christmas Eve, Sue and I decorated a plant with ribbon to serve as a Christmas tree and we listened to Christmas music on Christmas day. I think we might have played games and we may have made chicken for dinner. Nothing very noteworthy. Then we went to bed. Christmas had come and gone with us barely noticing.
Now I have returned to the Faith. Now I am a wife and the mother of 4 children who daily — absolutely daily – help me recognize the divine in the ordinary and help me notice the small gifts placed at my feet by a loving God. Christmas is on my mind now many weeks before the 25th. I embrace the Advent season with my family, I appreciate and notice keenly the sounds and smells of Christmas, and I love witnessing the joy in my children’s eyes during the Holidays. Christmas is significant in my life.
But, you know, in the last few years, especially with a large family, Christmas has become increasingly busy. It’s easy to get so caught up in the blur of Christmas activities that the season could pass without me really experiencing it on an authentic level. As a mom, it’s become easier for me to focus on small pleasures that reflect what is most important to me during this brief season, rather than responding to artificial expectations on my time.
But it’s still tricky. How many Christmas parties can I reasonably attend before it becomes a chore rather than a joy?
What are our hopes? If we aren’t hoping for an award for the cleanest house, maybe we can wait until January to clean out the refrigerator. (Though mine had some dead flies in it before I cleaned it over the weekend . . I did say maybe it could wait.)
What are our hopes? If we believe our purpose during the Holidays is to help the less fortunate, we can spend our time and energy bringing food and gifts to the needy or spending time with somebody on Christmas who needs a friend. What a beautiful way to share the spirit of the Season with our children. If we are seeking rest and renewal over the Holidays, we can plan a trip to a cabin, read a book by a fire, or just spend a weekend with our families without any distractions.
What are our hopes? If we are praying that our children become more like Christ during Advent, we have to spend the time that it takes to do that. A babysitter isn’t going to bestow this wisdom on our kids while we’re out at our 5th Christmas party of the week.
By clarifying our hopes, we can make better choices about how to spend our time these last few weeks before Christmas.