We expect too much at Christmas. It’s got to be magical. It’s got to go right. Feasting. Fun. The perfect present. All that anticipation. Take it easy. Love’s the thing. The rest is tinsel. (Pam Brown)
All the preparations have started for the big day – December 25th. Christmas is one of those times that we imbue with special meaning and significance. We want everything to be just right, perhaps, even perfect. I was thinking about this and trying to understand how we got ourselves into this mode of thinking. More important, though, is how can we get ourselves out?
1. Remember the reason for the celebration. For Christians, it’s the birthday of Jesus. Try to keep in mind that the birth of Jesus was a humble affair – born in a stable to refugee parents. Mary and Joseph had very little. It would have been wonderful for them to have had parents, friends, and loved ones around and a nice, comfortable hotel room. What of having lots of toys for Baby Jesus? They had none of these things and if we’re to go by all the pictures we see, they were happy with their precious baby and all the live animals around them. “Part of the purpose for telling the story of Christmas is to remind us that Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Indeed, however delightful we feel about it, even as children, each year it ‘means a little bit more.’ And no matter how many times we read the biblical account of that evening in Bethlehem, we always come away with a thought—or two—we haven’t had before…. I, like you, need to remember the very plain scene, even the poverty, of a night devoid of tinsel or wrapping or goods of this world. Only when we see that sacred, unadorned child of our devotion—the Babe of Bethlehem—will we know why… the giving of gifts is so appropriate.” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland)
2. Don’t aim for perfection because it doesn’t exist. The Christmas tree doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, Christmas trees come in different shapes and sizes. As long as you and your family are around the Christmas tree happy to be with one another, that’s all that matters. The gifts are never perfect. In fact, we often choose the wrong gifts for people. Aunty Martha may not need another scarf or Uncle Bill another tie. What they see is the love behind the giving and so does everyone else. For the children on your Christmas list, here is a life hack that is good to remember:
3. Feasting can be about preparing less food and eating healthier. Your friends and relatives want to spend time with you. If you decide to have ten dishes instead of twenty, they will not really notice. Several salads, a rice, pasta, or potato dish, and one meat dish will be plenty and healthy for everybody. As for sweets, try making a fruit cobbler and a fruit salad. Keep cookies and cake to a minimum. Your heart will thank you for this. “Consuming too much added sugar — in regular soda, cakes, cookies and candy — increases your risk of death from heart disease, according to a new study, the largest of its type.” (usatoday.com) Too many sweets will make us put on weight too. We certainly don’t want to go into 2018 this way.
4. Do away with magical thinking. Christmas can be lots of fun without being magical. Christmas lights, tinsel, and decorations are beautiful and make our homes and cities sparkle at Christmas. However, the real “magic” is to be found in your heart and mine. If Christmas brings out some quality of sharing, and caring, that doesn’t usually happen throughout the year, that is it’s magic. There are elderly people who would welcome a visit at Christmas, refugees newly arrived who you can include at a Christmas get-together, or some family member or friend you could invite to a concert. There is no shortage of ways in which some “magical moments” can grace your Christmas and mine. Here is a list I found on Pinterest that might give some good ideas.
5. Take it Easy. This one is especially for me. If all the preparations for Christmas make us stressed out, miserable, and exhausted, is this a joyous, happy time, for us or those around us? Definitely not. You may be asking how is anyone to take it easy when there’s decorating, Christmas shopping, baking, parties, church, and everything in-between to attend to. The only way to take it easy is to prioritize and delegate.
Christmas is a family time and that means that everyone in the family has to share in getting ready for Christmas. “A scientific poll today confirms what women have suspected all along – that when it comes to Christmas, men are taking it easy and leaving the stress and the shopping to their partners.” ( standard.co.uk) It’s high time that the men do their fair share in a family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This way, you can take it easy too.
Christmas is all about love and behind all the doing is love. In all the doing for others at Christmas, we have to remember to do what’s right for ourselves too. This isn’t being selfish. In fact, it can be the most loving thing we can do for ourselves. If you need to take it easy, just do it. I came across a wonderful quote on taking it easy. While it wasn’t about taking it easy at Christmas, perhaps we could give ourselves this kind of gift this Christmas. In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still. — Pico Iyer From: The Art of Stillness
I’m going to try for a little stillness and peace this Christmas and hope you do too. Merry Christmas!