We have been sick around here lately, have I mentioned that? I am currently in bed at 6:34, writing down some thoughts but also warming up from body chills I’m ignoring and the sore throat that is being numbed with a drop.
Well, it’s been a lot of sick and not so much Advent, not so much devotional reading and even the Advent Chocolate calendar has been neglected (that’s how you know you’ve been sick: chocolate is surviving the holidays).
As I drug our family to church last Sunday and I tried to listen to the sermon on Joy, I also tried to keep recently feverish boys happy in the narthex/entryway of the church. We kept them with us after the dedication so we wouldn’t “infect” anyone with the coughing… Parenting and deep spirituality sometimes come together but rarely it seems for me lately.
Then this morning as I gathered 10 Christmas cards (we didn’t do any this year…), listened to people’s plans for travel and read an email about my parents’ illnesses, it struck me:
there is pressure outside and inside the church during Christmas isn’t there.
Get the cards out before the 25th.
Make the homemade “I’ve never seen this before!” or “How did you DO this?!” gifts
Gather the pine cones and evergreen boughs for swathing the mantle
Don’t eat too much
Don’t worry about it! It’s the HOLIDAYS.
Don’t say Merry Christmas, they might be athiests. Don’t say Happy Holidays, they might be offended as believers.
Drive slowly. Don’t text your mom even though she retching and needs some nice words.
Wipe down the surfaces of your home to keep healthy (oops)
Have your kids learn traditional carols, not just Jingle Bells (seriously, you’d think XS had only heard J.B. upon arrival the way that kid hums the tune ALL.DAY.LONG.NOT.KIDDING.I’M.SERIOUS.)
Then we listen to Christian music stations or read a blog or get a great Amy-Orr-Ewing link about Gabriel meeting Mary and you realize you almost missed it.
It’s December 21 and I almost missed it. Christmas that is. I haven’t done much teaching of the kids, telling the story to XS or explaining again about presents and giving…
I haven’t sat with the lights off staring at the tree. Haven’t read Luke 2. Haven’t really remembered the reason for the season.
But isn’t that the REASON?! I can’t. I can’t do it this year. I don’t care about what I’m supposed to do anymore. Don’t care.
It honestly could be Lent right now. My head is stuffy and after making an effort with homemade granola, bread and peppermint patties I am done.
I can’t focus enough. I can’t make sure I get it right. I can’t do Christmas just right this year.
Isn’t that the reason God shrunk down into a baby? Isn’t that the reason He left His Triune God-head and mucked out the stables? Isn’t that why He took naps in the storm and cried when Lazarus died?
None of us can.
If you are, I want to give you permission from the Holy Spirit, I believe, to stop it. Stop trying.
He did it. He did Christmas right. He found the right ways to celebrate, pray, party and drink. He didn’t overdo, overspend or overstay His welcome.
I also don’t think it’s His voice we hear when we feel like it’s never enough, or it’s too much or simply just not good enough.
I don’t think it’s His voice we hear when we worry about spending too much on our kids or too little on the mail carrier.
I do think it’s His voice I heard the other day when I was LAUGHING out loud with the boys in the backyard while sledding. Elam was learning to “snow board” – meaning he stood on the sled, held the rope and bent his knees on our little backyard hill. XS would sometimes get stuck where the green grass is still poking through. Sometimes Elam would wipe out and we’d just giggle.
I thought about how I was almost missing Christmas this year. Starting to feel all that pressure. And then I heard:
Isaiah 40:11, one of my dad’s favorites:
He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those who have young.
I have young. I think even if you don’t, you are maybe carrying some other kind of burden that qualifies you to assume we can fit ourselves, our churches, our families (however messed up and broken they reveal themselves to be this time of the year in SPADES) in to these verses.
He leads us. Tends us. Gathers us.