As I've trudged further into my journey on this planet I've noticed I've lost a sense of Christmas excitement and enjoyment that I previously had...once in awhile. Not every year did I experience that happy anticipation of the Christmas season. And I finally figured out, the years I most enjoyed were the ones that ran high with excitement at gift giving. Being prepared ahead, noticing others' needs, desires, wishes to make my gift choices easier to find, and with knowledge I had done my homework, found a "good" present and looked forward to the enjoyment my loved ones would have....with no thought or expectation of what gifts I would receive. Key concept: NO EXPECTATION.
Changing life seasons bring about adjustments. Never easy for his dyed in the wool, set in her ways Grandma, changes seem to be coming faster than I can cope. Before I get settled in from one bump in the road I'm already having to position myself for yet another jolt. I'm a runner. No, not a long distance runner, or a sprinter or a marathon participant. I'm a runner, I run from things that shake me loose from my comfort zone. How does that relate to Christmas? just this...
We no longer have our little children for which we made the effort to get the perfect Christmas tree, decorate to the limit to make it the best ever, and then do all the baking and shopping and whatever else we could think of to make family traditions stick, and create monumental memories. And I'm not sorry about that! We still have grandchildren that bless us more and more each day. And we do still make the effort to make those memories with them on a smaller scale. Not having young children at Christmas was an adjustment that seemed difficult even though I was given ample numbers of years to accept that gradual change. I still find my mind wandering back to wish it was more like it was back then. Which is laughable since many mature lessons I had not learned yet, and Back Then wasn't really all that wonderful since I was always wishing for something different than the experience I was having at the time. There is wisdom in Paul's comment: Php 4:11 "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." I'm still working on that too.
The bottom line is, in my mind there is a large expanse between what I imagine to be the Perfect Christmas and the Real Perfect Christmas. And between the two is a war zone filled with land mines that explode without warning. Little explosions like one child got more presents to open than another, perceived favoritism, difficulties finding meaningful, affordable gifts, and on and on. And then the larger more difficult eruptions involving human-ness. Personality conflicts, stressful interactions the result of busy schedules and financial concerns and regular everyday hardships that don't go away just because it's a holiday, that all factor into outbursts of varying intensity. The Perfect Christmas I imagine to be a calm, peaceful family time filled with joyous interactions between family members. All family members present without the hassle of making schedules work, or the impossibility of too many miles to travel to attend. And unlimited resources to give each one gifts that would bring them joy and have them know they are loved beyond measure.
The reality is that is fantasy. All of it. We have to make do with what we have...people being imperfect humans, including me (the biggest disappointment of all is that I fail to communicate perfect love and wisdom), finances being limited, schedules denying all encompassing gatherings. And on and on. I cannot have that Perfect Christmas that is in my head. Or even come close because that's not reality.
A comment in a Sunday School class, by a sister in the Lord, switched on a light bulb moment. The Real Perfect Christmas is shedding all the trappings of what the world dictates I focus on. Finding a way to dodge what I'm tempted to get caught up in, not to run a faster pace to get more done than is humanly possible, to not be distracted from more needful and helpful daily routines that I am accustomed to rely on and not to forget my goal of intentionally living to honor and glorify the Lord first and foremost.
So, that's why Christmas leaves me feeling empty and tired. Now, what to do with this revelation. Stay tuned. When the Spirit reveals what I'm supposed to do with this information I'll be sure to let you know! What I do know is that as I grow older I am beginning to march (my version of marching, that is) to the beat of a different drummer. I am questioning what is commonly accepted as duty and right, and hold those activities prescribed by "they" to the candle light of Scripture to see what that Light shows traditions and rules to be. I'm not rebelling, that takes more energy than I have. I am examining what I pour my energy into, to be sure it's worthwhile. Wrapping paper and toys quickly lost or broken don't seem to make the cut. And neither do those gifts purchased hastily just because I "need" to get them something.
The Real Perfect Christmas is every day. Remembering WE are the reason Jesus came... as a baby...born in a humble state...We are the Reason for the Season. But not the way the world would have it interpreted to result in more self absorption and selfishness. Jesus came because we could only have a reconciled relationship with the Father through His sacrifice. His Death, burial and resurrection paved the way for our redemption. He wouldn't have had to be born in that lowly manger, or die on the cross if it hadn't been for my need to have my sin covered, paid for by His perfection.
And now, to go to work on those things, without running to find a comfort zone where I'll just vegetate. Intentional living is not for the weak or faint of heart. You have to stay on your toes, always watching to be sure it's not the selfish human side reacting, waiting for opportunities to serve, and minister grace and reconciliation, and following through and actually doing the next right thing. Focus. On Him. That's a Real Perfect Christmas.