Typically, December 1 is the day that Christmas begins in our house. Decorations, holiday tunes and movies, Pot of Gold chocolates, and Bailey’s over ice. I always love this day: It’s the set up, togetherness with family, and the anticipation of the days to come. The hauling out of cold rubber bins from the garage, the sifting through items that have sat waiting in the darkness for their time to shine for an entire year. We pull out the ornaments and reminisce about them – who the giver was or how old we were when we received them.
My husband untangles the lights we are to hang outdoors that frame our garage, and he ventures out in the coldness and frost and ice, our little ones supervising his efforts. And when it’s all done and set up, our dark living room bathing in a soft creamy light, the babes sleeping upstairs, we sit back and smile with a warmth that is set apart for this season. You know the one. It’s a feeling that we have a hard time putting a name to, but one that many of us just know.
For me, despite all this goodness, the season can often feel like one big roller coaster. Not the entire ride, just the part when your car is slowly climbing up, up, up, then in one second and one big rush you’re propelled down at lightning speed, and you’re smiling and laughing through the thrill and excitement.
Then all of a sudden, it’s over.
It’s time to get off and carry on with your day. After the holiday is done, and we are standing in a mess of wrapping and tissue paper, toys and boxes, we come awash in a kind of sadness that The Event is over. Do you? Maybe it’s just me.
I think that perhaps, we get this feeling because we focus so much on the things of the holiday. It’s so easy to treat it like an event or show. At least, that’s what it feels like for me. When I am focussing too much on what to buy for whom, when I’m rushing around the sales and stressing out that I may be going over our budget then the dryer breaks and needs repair (true story), when I worry that the gifts that my husband and I chose for our sons and each other won’t be good enough, and when I feel myself being embarrassed that my house doesn’t look like a Pinterest-worthy winter wonderland, I feel the build up is getting too high and I sense it will come crashing down.
It’s then that I feel a tap on my shoulder. A tap that when I turn around, reminds me that gifts and stuffed, overflowing stockings aren’t what this holiday is about. They’re absolutely fun to give and receive, but it’s not the goal. Feel me?
A couple weeks ago I was perusing Psalm 119 in the Bible. Not a Christmas themed passage by any stretch, but one of my favourites. When I got to these verses, I knew they had be my Christmas mantra; my prayer and my goal:
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom
and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Psalm 119:34-35 (MSG)
This verse is taped on the wall in my kitchen, below the clock where I can see it constantly. I have written it over and over so I can memorise it, and it is currently the wallpaper on my phone. I want it to be dark indigo dye, soaked in to the white fabric of my being.
Divert my eyes, Lord, from the rush and stress, from the surface things, from the selfish things that masquerade as selfless. Open my eyes to these things. Help me to keep my eyes focused on the things that count and the things that will be ever lasting. Help me to see the needs of others, those that struggle during this time that is supposed to be joyful. Help me, Lord, to give and to receive with a heart of thankfulness.
Question: How do you keep yourself focused on the things that matter during the Christmas season? What are the things that matter to you?