My experiment is working!
So…many of you have asked if I have stuck to my “To Not Do” list and the answer is YES I have! And it has been truly wonderful! I have probably enjoyed this Christmas season more than any other since childhood. After I got over my initial bitterness at Panera for not having their annual gingerbread bagels, I have reveled in the joy I feel this Christmas.
Here’s why I think I’ve been joyful:
1) I have evaluated my motivation for doing lots of the Christmas stuff that I do, and I have found that I do much of it to please people. But, if my goal in this life is supposed to be pleasing God, then I can just go with that because God really doesn’t care if I use Pillsbury premade peanut butter cookie dough to make my cookies or not. He does not consider me of less worth if my baked goods are not homemade. And by the way, I did make those peanut butter/Hershey kiss cookies with premade dough and they are in my freezer, but I only made them because I wanted to--not because I felt compelled to have them there. In fact, since I gave myself permission not to do several things, I have actually wanted to do them because they were not mandatory—does this make sense to anyone else?
2) Since Brent and I scaled back and decided to buy only one gift for each kid---and since I was only in charge of the girl’s gifts—and since I ordered them online, I have not had to do any Christmas shopping in busy stores with crazy people. I did, however, buy a few stocking stuffers for the kids, but I really enjoyed it because I just picked up things here and there and didn’t worry about stocking equality (it’s on the list).
3) My non-participation in the commercial aspect of the Christmas holiday has really opened my eyes to how Americans are very unbalanced when it comes to celebrating Jesus’ birth. It’s not that I think that gift buying or Santa is all wrong, it’s just that we way overdo this “fun” part of the celebration. Christmas in America becomes a frantic-paced mess of materialism and excess. We let our Christmas joy come from the “Christmas” we create with presents, and events, and food when it really should come from our wonder of the Baby who came to save us.
4) As an adult, I have always understood the true meaning of the season. And if you would have asked me, I would have told you that I thought Jesus’ birth was the most important part, but what I would be thinking in the back of my mind was, “I need to get one more thing for that kid to make all the kids’ presents equal” or “ I wonder if I can fit a cookie exchange in that weekend” because I have been very distracted by Christmas preparations in the past. This year, though, maybe because of my grand experiment of the “Not To Do” list, or maybe because I have been able to sit back and “people watch” since I haven’t been as busy shopping, I really understand what it means to FOCUS on Jesus. And I really really love it. Christmas has been so much more meaningful for me! Yesterday, I sang along to “Away in the Manger” on the radio with tears streaming down my face because God sent Jesus as a baby to save me. And it is just SO incredible—the birth, the baby, the angels, God’s idea to save His people. And it really happened; Mary was a real girl—just like my daughters, Joseph was a real guy—and I’m sure the whole virgin birth thing seemed a little weird for him—as it does for us. Baby Jesus was a real baby; a real baby just like the babies that I had---a baby that had dry newborn skin and tiny little feet and a piercing cry. It all happened—for real—just like it says in the Bible! No wonder we celebrate—this baby came to bring us back to our Father!
5) So much of what we do at Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus’ birth and everything to do with our self-focus and our drive to create “perfect memories”. I’m not sure why I am just now realizing that. I’m not sure why I based my joy on so many external things in years previous. But now, it’s as if God has flicked on a light switch in my mind. Things that were cloudy or hidden are now so crystal clear. I like this new way of seeing and understanding and experiencing Christmas. And I love the joy that this new understanding creates. It makes me so grateful to God and so anxious to celebrate—really celebrate--his appearance in history. It also makes me understand that my joy at Christmas should not be dependent on how all MY plans work out because Christmas is not all about me. It’s all about Jesus.
And Jesus being born beats a gingerbread bagel any day. It’s true.
Amen and amen!
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”