Well, it’s four days past Christmas, and Jesus still hasn’t made an appearance in the Miller household. “How’s that?” you say.
Simply said… we’ve been too busy.
“Too busy for Jesus? On Christmas? Isn’t that a problem?”
I guess you could say the problem is me. This year Christmas was Busy.
Honestly, I have no way of conveying how crazy Christmas was this year except to tell you that the thought “I hate Christmas” spontaneously ran through my mind several times during the two weeks leading up to December 25th.
That and the fact that Jesus has yet to make his appearance on our advent calendar. The kids reminded me after lunch that baby Jesus is still trapped behind door #24, to which I said, “Sorry, we don’t have time to get him out and read the last verses of the Christmas story before we run out the door for yet another event. He’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”
You see, I said “yes” to way too much this Christmas. I meant well. I wanted to spread Christmas joy to others. I wanted to let others know I appreciated and cared about them. I wanted to give until it hurt. (Mission accomplished!)
In late October, I started saying “yes”.
Yes, I’d love to co-ordinate the Christmas staff luncheon at Alice’s school. It’s only for 35+ people? No sweat! I’m used to planning for 80. I’ll do it on one condition—I don’t decorate. Period. I barely decorate my own house, so don’t expect me to transform the uninviting gym lobby into a magical Christmas oasis.
“No problem,” they said. “There are plenty of parents who will signup to decorate.”
And it wasn’t that big of a job. The parents were phenomenal; all the meal items were covered within 72 hours of posting my signupgenius list in early December, EXCEPT for decorating.
No one signed up to decorate…. no.one.nada.zilch.zip.zero.
And so it was left to me to decorate, which was hours upon hours of work for this Christmas-decorationally-challenged woman. Centerpieces, poinsettias, snowmen, battery operated candles… by the time I was done robbing my mom’s house of her Christmas decorations, my entire car was crammed full of Christmas-ness. I felt like I was driving the Christmas Car or Santa’s sleigh… or perhaps heading to Christmas College.
After all the decorations were returned, assembling 12 gingerbread houses for Alice’s class (and of course one for Ian) came next… because I’m the room mom, which also meant email after email of party logistics amidst having two kids with strep throat.
The eve before the strep diagnosis we canceled plans with friends, and the next two days, Daniel and I went solo to our respective family get-togethers while the other parent stayed home with recovering kiddos. How utterly sad that I found immense relief in those unexpected hours at home when I should have been enjoying the company of friends and family. Instead I was comforted knowing I was slightly ahead of schedule which might leave extra time to wrap a gift or two before Christmas Eve.
There were various church obligations as well: a special service I was invited to write for and read at, Sunday school to teach, a seasonal choir I was asked to sing with, and a community Christmas project to cook and bake for. (I know I’ve got some serious grammatical issues happening here… sorry, don’t care right now.) I said “yes” to all of it. My heart was in the right place; my head was out to lunch. (Or as Daniel commented when reading this, “Ok Dufus, here’s your sign.”)
And since that wasn’t enough to put me over the Christmas edge, my man decided it was time to redo our dining room floor during his Christmas vacation. I’ve been waiting for about five years for this project to commence, so believe me, I wasn’t about to say “Hold the icing on the sugar cookies, Santa. I’ve got way too much going on right now to add obstructing the major traffic corridor in our house and cluttering the living room to the Christmas Craziness.” But seriously, it was ironically amazing how incredibly awful the timing of this project was.
I crammed it all in. I crammed and crammed and crammed some more until I was so crammed with Christmas crap that I couldn’t think straight. I was not only losing my mind, but absolutely losing my patience… yelling at my kids, snapping at Daniel and flinging daggers with my rapidly blinking eyelids at the grocery store cashier who had the guts to tell me about all the Christmas gifts she had gotten for her dog.
By the time Christmas Eve rolled around I was so exhausted, I couldn’t wait to get through the next six days of Christmas celebrations just so life could resume its slower pace.
Look at everything I’ve done in the name of Christmas, in the name of helping others. I’ve given and given and given so much, there’s no room left for anyone… not enough time to enjoy the tradition of making cut out cookies with my kids. (I halved the dough this year so that project didn’t take as long.) I barely got to watch the kids decorate the tree. (They had 30 minutes to hang ornaments while I was in the kitchen preparing food for an imminent get-together.) Certainly no time to relax by the tree and enjoy its beauty… not even enough time to put Jesus on the advent calendar.
* * *
Today we opened door #24 and read the last verse… “the Word became flesh”. And I thought about Jesus, how his life on earth was unhurried. He spent time with many, not chasing them away or telling them they were consuming precious time in his carefully planned day.
And I know without a doubt that I failed this season of joy and giving. But I also know there is (hopefully) next year… or even next week or tomorrow. While “doing” is important, it is not the most important.
May this be the last Christmas where I am so hurried that I lose sight of simply being, encountering the unexpected, and welcoming others.