Rambling Thoughts About Christmas

I have always been "taught" that Christmas is stressful. Do you know what I mean? We are all taught that. Maybe not words but definitely by our culture. Stress is the name of the game for the holiday season- even for Christians who are doing it all in the name of "celebrating Christ's birth."

When Jason and I first were married, I was carrying on the stressful traditions. I hate decorating and dreaded it every year. I worried about what gifts to get and how many. I stressed over plans for the Christmas season. What did we have to do? What did we want to do? And how about establishing our own traditions? And, let's not even talk about how much money we spent!

But over the years, after having children, my thoughts about Christmas began to shift. I longed for a peaceful Christmas season, a time to just enjoy my family, and Christmas music, and all the good Christmas movies without all the hype. My first big "breakaway" was the year I was pregnant with Charles- nine months pregnant in December. I elected to not have a tree, and it didn't take much to convince Jason. We had a small table top tree that Kathryne (who was 17 months old) could enjoy and put some homemade ornaments on, and that was the extent of the decorating. It was so freeing!

When Jason lost his job right before Christmas when Kathryne was 3 and Charles almost 2, my thoughts about Christmas shifted even more. Even though we had already bought most of the gifts, and knew we have a "Christmas" I realized that Christmas had very little to do with this actual day we give a bunch of gifts and eat lots of food. So many things changed during that year. We had already lost my Grandmother on Christmas day the year before, and we lost a baby in the summer of that year. Then Jason lost his job at the beginning of December. That was definitely a year of discovering what really mattered and what didn't.

And, so fast forward a few years. Over the last few years, I have had fewer and fewer decorations. Last year we didn't put up a tree until Christmas Eve. We have also really been careful about our schedules during this season. We do not commit to enough things to be stressed, and we plan lots of down time with the kids and us together. Basically we've come to cut out those things we do as traditions just because we "have to", and we do the things that we think brings us together as a family and help us to focus on Christ.

Today, as Jason and I were out buying the last of the gifts, we decided to let the kids open presents tomorrow and not put up a tree at all. The present opening we wanted because the kids are getting a Wii (hope no one reads this before tomorrow), and on Christmas Day we go to Jason's family for lunch. So, we wanted the kids to have time to open the Wii and actually play with it before rushing out. The kids were all for opening the presents early. Kathryne and Rachel were a little disappointed with the thought of no tree. So, we told Kathryne she could decorate the small cedar tree in our yard with goodies for the birds tomorrow. She was thrilled. She's been wanting to decorate that tree! Then Jason, the pushover, went out to get "sausage" for breakfast and came back with a tiny tree and a string of lights for Rachel. So, we set it up and the kids made some ornaments for it. It sure was easier than putting up the big tree with the hundreds of ornaments we have. And it takes up much less room! It was worth it all when Rachel said over and over, "I knew I wanted a tree!"

So, here are my thoughts on Christmas:
Christmas is just a day. December 25 is a day just like the 24th. There is nothing magical about the day itself.
Christ was NOT born on December 25th. If that surprises you read about the history of Christmas here.
We can take a good idea- celebrating Christ's birth- and turn it into an idol when we allow ourselves to stress even if we are stressing over "good" things like church services and programs to celebrate Christmas.
Christmas can be a special time when we use it to focus on Christ and on time spent with family and friends.
Priorities are just as important when it comes to Christmas celebrations as they are all year long. If my relationship with God is a priority then I better make sure "good" things like decorating, baking, buying gifts,get togethers don't take priority over the better things like time spent with the Lord. If my family is a priority, then I better make sure those things don't interfere with the peacefulness of my family time.

So, Merry Christmas to my blogging friends. May you have a peaceful stress free holiday focused on Christ and on the things that really matter in life.

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