Preparing for Christmas
Mean old Santa Claus. He snuck up on me this year, and I’m not exactly sure how it happened. Perhaps it was being sick for two weeks surrounding Thanksgiving that threw me off track. All I know is that instead of feeling my usual early-December glee over the season, I am mumbling and grumbling like the Grinch.
Christmas is what, two and a half weeks from today? Usually, my house is fully decorated by now. I would’ve planned what I’m going to bake, and know what’s on the menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. By now, I’d know what everyone’s getting and already have some of it wrapped. My cards are usually addressed and possibly already mailed by now.
But this year? Nada. My living and dining rooms are still stacked with red and green Rubbermaid bins half full of Christmas decorations; the other half haphazardly scattered around with no rhyme or reason. My cats think we’ve built a holiday playground as they leap from box to box, hiding and pouncing from behind the garish towers of glitter and glitz in what has to be the kitty equivalent of Disneyland.
I still haven’t found the Christmas cards I overbought last year, nor have we taken the annual holiday photo of the kids. I haven’t baked a thing. I haven’t even thought about baking anything. Martha would be so proud.
My Christmas tree stands naked in front of the living room window, coordinating nicely with my totally barren front yard. There is one tiny, lone wooden elf on my front porch because I thought I’d save a few steps by sticking him out there while I searched for his buddies elsewhere. I still haven’t found the missing elves. Hopefully they’re in a tree out back, baking us some cookies with their elfin’ magic.
I can only imagine what the neighbors think as they drive by our naked tree and that one dinky elf. “Looky there, Bubba! It’s a minimalist Christmas at the Apteds!”
It just struck me, though, that minimizing all the chaos actually sounds like a nice idea to this tired old mom. Could I really do that, though? Could I really cast aside all the expectations I place upon myself to transform my home into a winter wonderland for just these few weeks, and focus instead on renewing our spirits this December?
I am listening to carols as I type. “O Come O Come, Emmanuel” is playing.
Rejoice. Interesting word, defined as, “To express great joy; to be ecstatic with joy.” I’ll admit there hasn’t been much of that around here lately. The song continues. “Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Oh, bid our sad divisions cease, And be yourself our King of Peace.” I love the imagery there, the promise of a King of Peace. Peace, the blessed absence of worry or fretting, the opposite of Martha-Stewart-inspired perfectionism that loses the meaning behind the Christmas to-do list. The opposite of the stressedout mother who yells at her son for breaking an ornament; the opposite of the psycho wife who barks orders at her poor husband as he tests the thousandth strand of blinking lights, just trying to make her happy.
And you know what? That is what I want for Christmas this year. I want peace. I want to rejoice. I want to cuddle my kids and drink hot chocolate and build gingerbread houses together. I want to listen to the beautiful old carols, and sing them off-key with glee. I want to find simplicity, and celebrate it, and cast off the constraints of living up to everyone else’s expectations of me this December.
Peace and joy. Joy and peace. They aren’t impossible goals. They aren’t obvious gifts. But they’re more precious than diamonds or anything anyone else could buy me, and they’re truly all I need.