I have been trying to think of the perfect Christmas blog idea for two weeks now. In the past, I have written about lessons from Santa and carefully selected presents. I have explored what the holiday means to me both spiritually and emotionally. I have tried to hold tight to the moments, wondering how many more of them I get to share with family and friends. So yeah, I have exhausted all of the possibilities to do justice to this, the most wonderful time of the year. I suppose that it is every writer’s nightmare to dip into a dry creative well. It certainly is mine. And I so want this post to be perfect and inspiring and timely. No pressure, right?
Let’s face it: the stress is on from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. We hustle to make the magic happen, to deck the halls and bake the cookies, to wrap the gifts and attend the parties. We try to cram so much peace and goodwill into one month that often, it is simply overwhelming. Life is not a Norman Rockwell painting. Sometimes, it is quite imperfect.
I have had some absolutely wonderful Christmases, filled with love and laughter. There was the year that my newborn baby came home from the hospital with me in a big red stocking. There are memories of so many Christmas mornings when squeals of delight punctuated the dawn, and later, we shared a delicious meal as we listened to carols softly playing in the background. But I have also had sad ones, when grief and difficulty diminished the moments of comfort and joy. Such is the rhythm of life, I suppose. And yet ironically, it is the fractured celebrations, when tragedy overshadowed everything else that I remember most: the Christmas dinner at Waffle House on the way home to bury my children’s father, the car that had to be towed a hundred miles across icy roads when we broke down in the middle of nowhere, the tree that never got decorated after my mother’s passing or the holiday that came far too soon following my cancer surgery. Those have become the pivotal chapters in our family’s Christmas history, times when we leaned on each other, putting traditions aside, because the holiday spirit was channeled in a different direction. Perhaps that is what made them even more precious.
Life, I have learned, is composed of many experiences, both good and bad, tied neatly with a great big ribbon of memory. And it is quite the gift.
This cloudy afternoon, I plugged in the Christmas tree. It isn’t like the big live one we used to have.; in fact, it's thin and leans slightly to the left. The sentimental ornaments, collected since I was a teenager, are still tucked away in the attic. Some of the gifts are haphazardly wrapped. Half of the lights on the garland that surround the patio doors are burned out; the vigil light that illuminates my nativity scene needs a fresh battery; the decorations around the fireplace are drooping; and I still have to get a candle for the kitchen table centerpiece. I look around. It is perfectly imperfect. But I am here, grateful that I can celebrate another Christmas. And I am filled with joy.
Our Savior entered this world from the lowliest of places. And although He was a king, He was born in a stable, not a palace. Certainly the fact that there was no room at the inn was less than ideal. While there are many lessons to be learned from His humble birth, perhaps one of the most important is that sometimes the greatest miracles come from the least likely beginnings. I hold on tightly to that promise.
So maybe this Christmas will be the best one yet. And maybe, this simple blog is the one I was supposed to write all along.
I hope that you will embrace the holidays, whether perfect or not, and may you find happiness, regardless of your circumstances. If someone in this great big world loves you, then, you are truly blessed. Ignore the lumpy gravy, the messy house, the annoying relative. You will laugh at these things tomorrow. Focus on enjoying this precious snapshot of your life, this moment, which is all any of us are guaranteed. That's where the real magic lies. Peace, truly is the greatest present of them all.