It's Been The Perfect Christmas
I can't believe that I had all my Christmas shopping done this year by Thanksgiving. I'm proud of myself for finally being on top of things throughout the year. I actually have found the perfect, thoughtful gift for each of my kids.
This was also the year we traveled out together to a Christmas tree farm out in the country and found a beautiful fir tree. It was a memorable moment, not so much because of the tree, but because our whole family sang carols together as we cut the tree down. Sheer joy, I tell you!
As we have counted down to Christmas, we have been making all kinds of homemade ornaments and decorations. We've cut snowflakes to add to wrapped gifts, and we have baked cookies for our neighbors. And then in the evenings, after the kids have gone to bed, my husband and I have been intentional to spend time together, sipping coffee and snuggling on the couch as we sit by the fire.
It's been Christmas that dreams are made of. Well, at least my dreams.
Oh, yeah, before you get too jealous, I should probably mention that my description of Christmas is totally fictional. Maybe it belongs to someone out there, but not me. It's the kind of Christmas you see on Instagram and in Hallmark movies (if you insert some sort of long lost love and Christmas festival in a small town.) But it's not reality. At least not for me. And I'm willing to bet, it's not your reality either.
How about we try this again? Here's how Christmas typically goes around here in my home with 8 kids.
I couldn't believe that I had done it again--waited until right before Christmas to finish wrapping the last of the presents. Finding the chance to slip away and finish shopping had been hard with our busy schedule. I have teens, but some can't be left home alone without an adult (life of a special needs momma!) So we could really only go out shopping in the evenings if we had a babysittter. So even though I had a desire to support local stores, most of the Christmas gifts came from Amazon again this year.
We put up our artificial tree again this year. It's held up surprisingly well considering how many times the kids and dogs have almost knocked it over. I thought it would be fun to watch a classic Christmas movie while decorating the tree. The movie was mostly drowned out by kids complaining about how boring black and white movies are.
We did make some homemade ornaments and decorations because a lot of my kids love crafts. But my visions of making traditions of baking together are out the window, because most of my kids have zero interest in baking. Rather, I spent the day in the kitchen making cookies with the littles while the teens played video games.
We tried to go on some outings to see Christmas lights, but the kids with adoption trauma wanted no part in it. You see, because of their previous abuse and neglect, their brains can't discern the difference between happy excitement and bad excitement (read: fear.) So happy times end up in screaming tantrums, which, let me tell you, is neither very attractive nor festive in a six foot tall teen.
We have had some lovely evenings home together. These are evenings that we read through our Jesse Tree stories and hang our ornaments. But most of our evenings are filled with festivities of the season. I'm so proud of my kids that perform in their Christmas dance recitals and church musicals, although some events overwhelm my kids with sensory issues.
Oh, and then there's the Dirty Santa Christmas parties. Homeschool parties. Ugly Christmas sweater parties. Ice skating with the youth group. And still more parties. My husband and I have to split up so we can accomplish everything. Only to come home and crash with the littles in our bed because they've been passing around a respiratory virus and don't want to sleep alone.
Yes, then there's the issue of grief this Christmas. That's a new one for us. You see, my sister died this summer so it will be the first Christmas without her.
Did you just relate to my second description of Christmas more than my first? Perhaps you don't have kids with special needs or significant behavioral issues. And maybe your kids love to bake and sing carols. But my guess is that Christmas for you still doesn't look like a Hallmark movie.
On the flip side, maybe Christmas time this year is way worse than what I described. Perhaps you've just lost a loved one. Or maybe you have a sick child and your only Christmas tree is in the corner of the hospital room. Whatever your Christmas season looks like this year, I guarantee it's not Pinterest perfect, is it? Maybe it's hard to find joy in the Christmas you have set before you.
A Different Focus
Now this is where I could tell you to think positively about all the things that you DO have at Christmas, rather focusing on the circumstances that aren't working out. But that's not where I'm headed today. No, I'm not going to discredit the pain you're walking through or the difficulties I'm facing. Instead, I'm going to challenge you to shift your focus.
No, I'm not going to tell to you to think about the positive. Instead, shift your focus away from your circumstances entirely. And away from your problems. Even shift your focus away from all the warm, fuzzy memories you make with your family. Shift your focus off of you, and onto Jesus.
After all, the first Christmas wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy. It wasn't the ideal situation. The God that created the universe--the God that holds all things together--humbled himself into the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2). Not as a king, but as a lowly servant. He was born in a barn that probably reeked of cow manure and was laid in a manger that the cattle had slobbered on. That's quite the visual isn't it. Definitely not a Christmas that would make it on Instagram or the Hallmark channel.
Despite the humble circumstances, Jesus' birth was celebrated by hosts of angels. It was a time of great joy. But not because of the circumstances. Rather, it was because the Light had come to darkness. God had met us in our need. He had given up everything to be present with us, to be near.
Indeed, Christmas is about celebrating that our Creator is near. He is near to us in our troubles. And He's near to us in our triumphs. And Christmas is not for us. It's to celebrate with joy that indeed, the Lord has come!
So whether you are basking in the glow of the fireplace as you sip on hot cocoa, or you are sitting in a cold, sterile hospital room, Christmas is a time of comfort. Whether your family is struggling financially this year, or your family is enjoying abundance, Christmas is a time of joy.
Because it's not about us. It never has been. It's about celebrating that the Lord is near. That He loves us and came to save us. We are not in darkness anymore. We have the Light. That is truly a cause to celebrate!
Joy to the world
Joy to the world
Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing
Joy In The Christmas You Have
So, if you have been caught up in feeling like your Christmas celebration is not enough, not festive enough, or whatever else you may be feeling about it, let me encourage you.
It's not too late to shift your focus onto Jesus. Even if it's Christmas Day when you're reading this. Get your Bible out and feast on His Word. Take time to share the Good News of Jesus with your kids, family and neighbors. Turn off those Hallmark movies if they are distracting you from Jesus and making you think you don't have enough. Because if you have Jesus, you can truly experience joy in the Christmas you have!
Do you need to shift your focus back on to Jesus? What traditions do you have to help your family maintain focus on Jesus at Christmas?