When someone asks me how I am doing during the holiday season, are statements like the above the best testimony I have to offer as a follower of Christ? Does anything about my mindset and frenetic pace resembles the peace, love, and joy that I claim Jesus came to give me?
Who will be drawn to a Savior who appears to induce his followers to stampede through the mall, dive into debt, drag themselves to party after party, wrap gifts in coordinated paper and bow sets, set out a lavish display of lights, moan and groan about how busy they are, and then wind up exhausted, all in honor of his birthday?
Don't get me wrong; I LOVE the Christmas season!!! I look forward to decorating our tree with ornaments made by my grandmother, I love to make sugar cookies and other treats with my girls, I love to listen to Christmas music and drive around looking at our neighbors' light displays, and I enjoy the looks on my daughter's faces as they exuberantly rip the paper off a brand new Barbie doll or razor scooter.
But, especially since I have had children, I have begun running myself ragged at an increasingly alarming rate. I feel I have lost all balance; often, I don't enjoy the things that I am doing. Instead, I am just doing them because I believe I'm obligated, or because "we've always done it that way." Sometimes my attitude stinks, and I snap at those I love, which my family can attest to. The expression on my face as I don my holiday sweater says it all: "I am a martyr for the cause of Christmas merriment, suffering to make everything appear perfect so my family can have the holiday season of their dreams."
I have decided it is time for a redo! So, our family is going to still celebrate Christmas and do the things that we really enjoy, but we are going to delete other things that drain our time and money and leave us frazzled and broke.
Here are a few things we are going to do differently:
1) I have cooked a bunch of soups and casseroles this fall and put them in the freezer. I have enough food stocked to feed us most nights when we don't have a party or other engagement. I don't have to worry about what my family is going to eat for dinner. That means when I am whipping up something in my kitchen, it will be a seasonal favorite (like Hello Dollies or chocolate bon-bons) that I relish making!
2) We are going to learn to say "no," even to some good things. Neither we nor our children have to go to every party, event, or celebration that we are invited to. Some nights, it would be more enjoyable and soothing for all of us to sit in front of the fire and the Christmas tree eating popcorn, drinking hot cocoa, and listening to Christmas music, so that is what we will do.
3) I am a huge fan online shopping! In a few hours, I can get the bulk of my shopping done, and have gifts delivered right to my door! This can be done while the girls are in school or after bedtime, and there is no hurry, rush, and stress of going to a zillion different stores, fighting crowds, and trying to find a parking place.
4) We are going to reach out to others this season who need love and assistance. Our goal is to not spend more time and money on ourselves than we spend on those who are poor, hungry, afflicted, sick, and lonely. I am sure we will fall far short in this area, but I believe it is a worthy goal. If we want to truly honor Jesus' birthday, there is no better way than to genuinely care for the people (all of us) that he came to save! (Some ideas for this will be coming in another post).
Ironically, I expect that doing and spending less this Christmas will not decrease the joy, peace, and love that we claim we desire, instead, I believe it will increase it. My hope is that on December 26, we will not be staring at piles and piles of wrapping paper, Christmas decorations which have to be taken down, gifts and toys that have already lost their shine, bloated credit card bills, and wonder why we went to so much trouble and stressed ourselves out in the first place.
Instead, I hope to look back on a month that, although harried at times, was calm, enjoyable, and had many memorable moments. I hope that we will feel blessed and like we have blessed others as well. I hope to have taken the time to slow down enough to really spend time with Jesus (it's his birthday, after all), and feel we have honored Him with our thoughts, our time, and our pocketbooks.
Perhaps, this year, for the first time, my response when asked how I am doing during the holidays can be: