Timing is important this season of the year, like planning a celebratory meal so every dish finishes cooking at the same time. We feel the strain of getting it all done just right, on time, making it special and memorable. Does anyone else feel the pressure?
Over the last few years, our family has talked a lot about simplicity. How can we keep the traditions alive that are important to us without doing everything we've always done . . . without "doing it all"?
The answer to this question varies, but we've learned to be okay with a little less baking and decorating and fewer gifts. And our time together is just as meaningful. We treasure every bit of stimulating conversation and laughter around the table that feeds a feeling of belonging.
On the other hand, no holiday is perfect. The kids cry. A new toy breaks. A part is missing, and we can't find the receipt. The roast doesn't get done in time. The empty chairs, seen and unseen, remind us of those who are no longer with us. We feel the loss . . . more so than on regular days.
So then, there's the matter of trying to adjust our expectations . . .
. . . and focusing on the first Christmas where a government tax bill shuffled people around the land of Israel, making it necessary for a young virgin to give birth to her firstborn son in a stable miles from home. Not ideal by any standard, yet somehow in God's perfect time according to His perfect plan.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5).This Christmas, I want to be purposeful and embrace those traditions that are meaningful, don't you? And to see the wrinkled newborn in the manger with fresh eyes, to hear the brilliant announcement and glorious song of the angels with the shepherds, to follow the mysterious star with the wise men, and to embrace the wonder of it all with Mary and Joseph.
No matter how our holiday week plays out, a simple story from long ago makes all the difference. And in this wonderful story, the baby's name is Immanuel.
God with us.