December 07, 2006

Putting The Joy Back Into Christmas

Several years ago as I was doing some last minute shopping at our local mall I had what I call my "epiphany." As I was looking around the crowded mall I decided I wanted to rest a bit. While sitting on a bench I took in the sight not only with my eyes but also with my heart. What I was looking at was sad, indeed. People were racing about with hurried step and glazed over eyes. Their pace was so fast it almost made me dizzy. There were no smiles, no pleasantries, no "Merry Christmas" to you (don't get me started on that one!) there was absolutely NOTHING. What I DID see was a lot of stressed out, burned out, and worn out people. Each one was on a "mission" to find that perfect gift and in the process spend a lot of money they didn't have. No wonder the credit card companies love us at Christmas time.

As I continued sitting there on that little bench that is when the "epiphany" came to me. Not only was I looking at these stressed out, burned out, worn people . . . . . . . I had indeed, in fact, become one of them. As I was watching their unhappy faces I realized that the people would see that same unhappy face on me. OUCH! I cringed at the very thought. I had fallen into the "trap." The Christmas "trap" that I promised myself I would never do. Although I certainly KNEW the true meaning of Christmas I had allowed myself to get mixed up in the Christmas "craziness." I had somehow forgotten that it isn't about who buys the most expensive, impressive present. It isn't about who volunteers for every church Christmas activity there ever was. It isn't about who has the most Christmas parties, sends out the most Christmas cards, has the most lights on their house, or even who bakes the most fruitcakes. What it IS about is that baby that was born in the manger. God's gift to us, to all mankind.

As I picked myself up off that bench I was a different person. I left that mall without hurried step and glazed eyes, but with a smile on my face and even a "Merry Christmas" to others. As a result, the gift giving in our house has dwindled down considerably. It's not the amount or the cost, it's the thought and love that went into it. Another result is that as a family we are spending more time in our home during the holidays. Outside obligations are very limited and the ones that we do have are very well chosen. As I go about my chores during the day I am again humming along to beloved Christmas carols. As I walk from room to room I give an admiring glance of appreciation at our Christmas tree. At the dinner table we have candles lit and in the evening we have a special bible reading around the Advent wreath. We are "taking the time" to "make the time" to ENJOY Christmas and it's true meaning. I'm sure if I asked my children what there favorite toy for Christmas was when they were little they would be hard pressed to remember. I am also sure that they could tell you every detail of our family Christmas Eve celebration. The reading of the Christmas story, the singing of songs, the food, the laughter, and the love.

The next time you are out I challenge you to look around. Do you see what I saw? Do you feel what I felt? If so, stop a minute. Not only physically stop, but take a "mental" stop. Ask yourself, "are they seeing in you what you see in them?" If so, maybe it's time for an "epiphany" of your own. We can get out of the "trap" and into the glorious and wondrous part of the Christmas season. After all, we've already been given the greatest gift!


Anonymous said...

Susan, What a lovely post you have and what you say is so important. My daughter reads some blogs that I enjoy and I am sending her yours right now. It sounds like you have a wonderful family and you atr teaching your children the TRUE meaning of Christmas. When I get to Ohio I am going to make all my gifts for Christmas next year.Made with love is what Christmas is about...Again a wonderful post my friend...

Mrs.B. said...

This is so true!

Lori said...

Thank you so much for this post. The Lord has really used it in my life. I am sitting here in tears right now. I was JUST having a discussion with my husband of "How much I have to do before Christmas!!" It made me stop and remember that I too need to be joyful and remember the true meaning of Christmas. Praise the Lord for His Wonderful Gift!

Thanks again--I love your blog!
Lori (Ohio)

Kelli said...

Susan, you write the most amazing posts!!!

"We are "taking the time" to "make the time" to ENJOY Christmas."

That was wonderful and especially the last sentence of your post. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on enjoying the Christmas season and being thankful for the greatest gift of all!


Anonymous said...

I love your blog. The idea for
the basket is awesome.

Mississippi Girl said...

This is SO true, Susan! It is so very easy to get caught up in the "hustle and bustle"- but where is the joy in that? You are such an encouragement! Thanks for posting this!
Jennifer R.

Naturegirl said...

Wonderful post and reminder to all the true meaning of our Chritmas celebration. I have stopped all the rushing around and keep everything quite simple.Family and friends around is what I most like to have this time of year.We are blessed and that I am grateful for.

Anonymous said...

Yes I DO know exactly what you mean FINALLY this year!!! Last year I said "yes" to every invitation, did so much at church that I almost started to resent it and so on. Where was Christ in my Christmas???

This year my husband and I have talked so much about this and it has changed our minds on a lot of the traditions that we felt must happen. I'm also guarding our family time jealously against the "have to" invitations and not getting caught up in so much. For there is Something and Someone that is so much more important than the perfect gift, the perfectly baked cookie, etc. He simply wants our love, not our obligations.

Sorry to go on and on, but your post touched my heart so much. I'm so glad I've found your blog for you give me so much joy and are so thought provoking!

Susan P. said...

Sharon, I think that is wonderful that you will be making all of your Christmas gifts next year. I know they will be so treasured by the recipients:)

Mrs. B :) :)

Lori, your comment touched my heart so deeply. Thank you so much for sharing that with me. We have been blessed with the most wonderful gift!!

Kelli, I think you are a fine example of someone who "makes the time" to "take the time" to enjoy Christmas:) Your children will be so blessed because of that.

Annonymous, welcome! I am so glad you liked the basket idea for neighbors:)

Jennifer, you are such an encouragment to me as well. You show such strength, courage, an abiding faith that we witness everyday on your blog. **For those of you who don't know Jennifer's husband is serving in Iraq right now and she is caring for her two sweet little ones at home.

Nature girl, sooo true!

Elizabeth, thank you so much for sharing your heart with me, I am truly touched and so grateful.

stone said...

Years ago I hated to see Christmas time come. Shopping drove me nuts and I felt a panic attack approaching (even though I've never really had one.)I have a wonderful husband but he would be sitting home watching Christmas programs while I was shopping. You know the picture!

I suggested for the following year that we take a week and bake. He thought I was nuts until I told him I no longer enjoyed Christmas.

In early November the following year, we took out the cookbooks and flagged quite a few items we thought sounded delicious. I bought the necessary ingredients, storage containers, and gift tins. After Thanksgiving, for a solid week my husband and I started baking. Each night after dinner, we would put on our favorite music, grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine. That was the beginning of a WONDERFUL Christmas for me. We talked and laughed and reminisced about the past. Together we lovingly placed the homemade items in the tins and packed the boxes. We were able to ship the gifts the first week of December. We truly gave from the heart that year and enjoyed it.

Now we are able to celebrate the birth of Christ.