…but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.
As women we are taught to pause, reflect. But get stuff done.
“The Most Wonderful Time of Year” plays in the background. A stack of cards waits to be addressed. A bag of presents needs to be wrapped, or hidden before the children get home. The minutes tick by on the clock. I am rushed, not wonderstruck.
The line is 10 people deep. I check my watch. Thirty minutes until I need to be home, changed and onto the next holiday activity. I ponder my choice to wait until the last minute to put together the gift and the cookie tray for tonight. I still need to make a stop at the grocery store. The math is not in my favor.
But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.
Charlie Brown Christmas is on TV. I gather the kids. Everyone grumbles. “You’ve made us watch this before,” says the oldest. He is way too cool for sitting with Mom, too cool for cartoons. I want to enjoy this; but my list of things to do nags at the back of my mind. A commercial break. The boys begin to fight. I yell. I am sweating, willing everyone to just settle down and watch. “Do we have to watch?” they ask. They start to peel away one by one. I remember this being much more magical and fun.
I am at the coffee shop. It was a long night and work came early. I am running on fumes. I will treat myself with a Peppermint Mocha. The woman in front of me says, “aren’t you glad they brought back the Christmas cup?” I stare at her. She continues, “I mean, now I can come back here. I really like their coffee better. But you cannot support the war on Christmas.” She smiles a toothy grin. I stare more, then say, “I come here because it is close to my house.” She smile thins, then she turns away.
Let’s be honest. Christmas is a lot of work. I am not sure if my mother felt this way, or my grandmother felt this way, or if this is something new. But my childhood had Christmas filled with magic and wonder. Christmas was truly a gift. Now, even the act of pausing to reflect seems like too much.
Daily I get an email about the perfect gift or perfect holiday table, and honestly I feel pressure to do it all…perfect mantel, perfect holiday card, perfect meal, perfect cookie tray. What happened to good enough?
Mary gave birth among animals. She was giving birth to what was considered a bastard child in a foreign city in the home of her husband’s relatives. She placed her newborn in a feedbox. None of this was perfection. She made due with what was. Good enough.
If I really pause and think about the Christmas story, there wasn’t a whole mess of gifts. Just three. There wasn’t Christmas Cards to one and all, just a star. In the end, only a few people picked up on the fact that the story was even beginning.
Why then am I putting so much pressure on myself to have perfection for Christmas? Where does this come from? When I do pause and reflect, it leads me to think about those people in my life who have help shape the holiday seasons of the my past. Our traditions never revolved around perfection, but comfort and connection. The people in my life focused on service to country and community, love for family and friends, and faith in God. These values shaped their lives and our holidays.
What is Christmas really?
A baby? Born into politically turbulent times to poor, unwed teenage parents? Who grew up to show us how to bring people together, serve others, and love one another? Yes. That’s it.
The Christmas Story is about less, not more.
It is a story about the connection of people, not red cups.
Linus tries to tell me this…if only I would sit there and listen.