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Yesterday I began to worry that I'm not feeling the Christmas spirit. A full week into December, and my mood is one of rushing and listing and planning rather than joy and excitement.
We went to a Christmas concert last week. The music was wonderful. It included a handbell choir playing intricate music with perfect timing. But we were running late, and we had trouble finding a parking place. We were fortunate to find a seat in the far right balcony. Those arriving after us had to sit on the floor. Somehow the shadow of anxiety robbed me of the full joy of the concert.
We are in the middle of a big family project, and my husband suggested that we cut back on Christmas decorations this year. "Let's just put up the tree and the nativity scene," he said. "Next year you can go all out and decorate every room." I know he is right. At one level I'm glad to be relieved of three days of decorating, followed, inevitably, by 3 January days of restoring order. Decorations have absolutely nothing to do with the meaning of Christmasâ€¦but putting up holly and angels do set a mood, and they do trigger memories of Christmases past.
When my children were little, we began to celebrate Christmas on December 1. Now my college son is studying for finals. Even when finals are over, he will stay at school to work for several days before coming home. My high school daughter has 5 research papers and 3 projects due before school is out. Last night she and I both literally dozed off as I asked her questions about moles and empirical formulas. Late nights of study do not foster Christmas cheer.
There is the added difficulty of following the BTD. Say what you will, food is a big part of the cultural Christmas environment. Is there a single traditional holiday food that is truly beneficial? I seem to be surrounded by cookies and fruit cakes and egg nogs. They are all lovingly prepared by people just as busy as I am. When I say "No, thank you," I see disappointment in their eyes. When I say "Yes, I'll take some," I kick myself later for not having more self discipline.
This morning as I opened my Bible, I asked God to slow me down enough to enjoy the true wonder and excitement of Christmas. A few minutes later, I read these words by Thomas a'Kempis, "Willingly would I speak my word, and reveal my secrets unto thee, if thou wouldst diligently watch for my coming, and open unto me the door of thine heart."
I thought of the shepherds, out in the fields that first Christmas night, watching their flocks, watching the sky. The rest of the world was rushing around worrying about details of Caesar's census and taxes. All of the details that seemed so important caused them to miss the heavenly hosts glorifying God that Christ was born. Christmas is more than decorations and food - it is even more than family. I want to watch, with an open heart, for God to reveal himself during this season when we celebrate that "God so loved the world."
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