December 25, 2004, was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the Christmas when the proverbial poop hit the fan. I finally said out loud to Andy what I’d been stuffing down for the eight years we’d been married: “I hate Christmas!”
I felt terrible saying this about one of the most sacred holidays. Of course, I didn’t hate celebrating the birth of Jesus. It was the crowded airplanes and airports I despised and spending 12 days of Christmas in a house packed with 12 relatives.
I loathed trying to come up with gift ideas for 19 relatives who already had everything they needed. I was bitter about spending evenings and weekends shopping.
The amount of toys our kids received at Christmas put a knot in my stomach. They already had more toys than they could play with, and I envisioned the playroom getting more cluttered with each gift they unwrapped.
I was emotionally drained from trying to please and meet the expectations of my parents, two sets of in-laws, grandparents, husband, and children. Overall, I felt a deep sadness that the Christmas season, which I wanted to be a time of worship and meaningful reflection, was instead a season of strain and stress.
As I named all the things that sucked the life out of me at Christmas, I had an epiphany. Christmas doesn’t have to be this way! I can choose a different way, a better way.
I can say “no” to excess, people pleasing, and the things that (for me) crowd Jesus out of Christmas. And in saying “no” to these things I can say “yes” to a more peaceful, meaningful season that will give me and my family the space to ponder the mystery of the God who put on skin and entered into the mess.
Christmas has gotten progressively better over the years. We’ve stopped traveling and instead visit relatives during the summer. We gently encourage our parents to give our children fewer gifts. We spend a lot less time shopping by giving relational gifts of quality time.
Andy has released himself from the pressure to spend two cold, miserable Saturdays on a ladder, hanging up and taking down Christmas lights. And I’m very close to completely rejecting the myth that it’s my job to try to make everyone happy. Very close!
How about you? Are you feeling nudged to reject or release anything this Christmas?
Erika Lee Sears said:
As I have gotten older and hopefully wiser :)- It seems Christmas is more about making special memories with your family.. at least for me. I agree with you- I think the biggest challenge is the gift giving- which in my opinion should be left for the kids. On my side of the family we have given up gift giving for the adults and just do a small gift for the children like a book or craft.
I am so glad that Andy decides not to make himself miserable. Christmas should be about the joy and doing things that fill your heart. I did make Tim go and get a tree this year but compromised with one that was pre-cut 🙂
Hooray! What a great post. Such a liberating feeling – I think I might join you in that! Thank you, Marta x
U. Shaw said:
Yes! Thank you for sharing your Christmas wisdom, Marta! Slowly, slowly, I am
learning the rhythms of the holiday season that work for our little family… there are SO many awesome opportunities that come around during the holidays, which makes it hard because we have to pick and choose. But! Allocating time and space to adore Jesus feels like the key to keeping my heart light… and perhaps for the first time in my life do I feel the good news of Christmas so keenly. Emmanuel, God has come to live with us. What a miracle of goodness! 🙂
Marta Oti Sears said:
U. Shaw, it sounds like you are finding your way beautifully. Thank you for sharing here. 🙂