The entire month of December was a race to survive this year. Now that Christmas Eve and Christmas morning are safely tucked behind us, I feel like I can breathe a huge sigh of relief.
One week ago, I had no idea how it was all going to come together. But thanks to online shopping, a few nights that lasted until the wee hours of the morning and super fast shipping, we made it through.
We thought of presents for everyone on our list. All but one of the packages containing gifts were shipped to us with a day to spare. The gift wrapping marathon concluded just in time for the festivities. The Christmas cards were addressed and mailed out in entirety. We attended multiple Christmas parties. The program at church ran smoothly after hours of practice.
The holidays sure can feel like a whirlwind. I think it is so easy for the holly and jolly to get lost intermixed with the hurricane surrounding the season of checking off lists. I know I am guilty of seeing everyone else who is “doing it all” and wondering why I can’t keep up. How am I supposed to keep a joyful, Christ-centered Christmas when a clingy baby won’t let me put him down to even cook a meal? Or when every time I turn around there is another mess to clean up, more homework to help with, more laundry to fold, more breathing treatments to set up, more design orders to complete, more church meetings to attend, more music lessons to plan, more carpools to drive, more service to give and more outings to attend?
Each year, I want so badly to enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas. To really be present with my children and husband instead of being stressed out day after day. However, the more Christmases that pass, the more I realize that the joy I seek isn’t found in grand events or perfect harmony or every expectation being met. The true spirit of Christmas is found in small moments. Moments that come unexpectedly amidst the rush of activity where everything pauses and my heart fills up.
I had a few of those “moments” this holiday season.
One of them came during our Christmas church program. The choir conductor cornered me several weeks prior and asked me to join the choir. I felt like I could not possibly add one more thing to my plate. But she was so persistent with emailing me and texting me that I just couldn’t say no. I actually ended up loving the practices before church on Sundays, where I had a break from the ruckus at home to fill up on beautiful music.
But the moment came as we were singing the last verse of O Holy Night on Christmas Sunday. When the organ and piano came together along with the choir and congregation on the last verse, my eyes welled up as we sang the words:
Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
It was powerful. It was just the reminder I needed that Christmas isn’t about Amazon or perfect trimmings, but about a tiny babe who was born in the most humble conditions who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Another moment came on Christmas Eve Eve. We went to see the light display at a local resort. As we were sitting on outdoor bleachers, watching an animated light display version of the Nativity, Crew squealed with glee every time the baby Jesus illuminated. He jumped up and down and pointed as he exclaimed, “I see it! I see baby Jesus!” The people around us started chuckling at his very vocal declarations and yet somehow it did not get old just how excited he was each and every time. Once again, my heart was full in a simple moment where all distractions were put aside.
Some of my favorite moments throughout the month were when we all were together, encouraging our tiniest brother to perform new tricks. Finn learned to say a few words and take his first steps in the weeks leading up to Christmas. His brothers were his biggest cheerleaders. They were constantly asking him to repeat the words he knew. “Finn, say uh-oh!” “Finn, say ball!” “Finn, say more!”
It was the absolute best when we gathered around the tree to read our Christmas book each night and encouraged Finn to let go of the couch and take a few steps into our outstretched arms. He wobbled toward us with the hugest smile on his face and we collectively cheered for him each time he made it. And then we laughed when Crew inevitably generated his own round of applause by mimicking Finn letting go of the couch and taking some steps.
No matter what else was going on, those quiet moments of encouragement seemed to pause time each night and let us bask in love and gratitude.
Checking off pressing items on the list and running around frantically did not make December meaningful. It was the stillness that was recognized amidst the hustle and bustle when time froze, even if only for a moment. That is the joy that somehow made the rest of the hurricane worth it.