Well, the Christmas season isn’t following the plan I laid out so neatly and carefully. My mother’s death, a year ago this week, is weighing heavily on me. The adopt-a-family project I’m coordinating at work has run into some roadblocks. The cabinet my husband is assembling is spread across the living room, waiting for a replacement part to arrive.
Our Christmas tree is sitting in a bucket in the back yard. I haven’t purchased or made any gifts. And I ate crackers and Coke Zero from a vending machine for lunch today. Finding joy? Not so much.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about creating a fun, calm and healthy Christmas and finding joy in the chaos of the season. I mean, that sounds good, right? Let’s enjoy the season, I said. Let’s bring joy to our marriages and families, prepare delicious (and healthy!) food, and enjoy regular exercise in the fresh winter air – all while staying calm, cool and collected.
That’s what a “successful Christmas” looks like, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? Well, if it does, then my Christmas season is anything but successful. In fact, at the moment, it’s a complete failure. Because those things just aren’t happening in my life right now.
But what if I’m focusing on the wrong things? And what if you are too? I don’t mean that the things we want – peace in our families, beauty in our homes, good health, lovely gifts – are wrong. I’m just beginning to wonder if we should focus our energy on acquiring them. Because when we do, frustration tends to show up and stick around until Christmas is over.
And by then we’ve developed a vague sense of failure, of having “done Christmas wrong.”
Maybe the true joy of Christmas is found in the chaos, in turning things around by bringing love and joy into the hard parts of the season. Maybe it’s found in responding to the post office clerk with patience and grace, even though he hasn’t been able to find your package for two days. Maybe it’s found in smiling and saying hello to people, even though they’re staring daggers at you.
Maybe it’s found in letting someone into the line of traffic, even though you’ve been trying to escape the parking lot for 10 minutes. Maybe it’s found in making hot chocolate with your kids, even though the house needs to be cleaned. Maybe it’s found in purchasing a gift for someone who needs one, even though your own resources are stretched pretty thin.
Maybe it’s found in recognizing that Christmas is hard for many people, and giving them space to grieve or laugh or survive the season in their own way. Or maybe it’s found in recognizing that Christmas is hard for you too, and giving yourself the same kind of grace.
Perhaps the key to finding joy in the chaos of Christmas is to focus on the process of celebrating the season, rather than the product. To emphasize love and joy, rather than things and results.
And to celebrate Christ’s birth, not by placing heavy burdens on ourselves or others, but by loving people and treating them with patience, grace and respect. The way He did.
Perhaps we can create a “successful Christmas” after all. But it may require us to face the chaos of the season head on, bringing love and joy right into the heart of it.
(Originally published in December 2014.)