Can you feel the pressure mounting? The expectations rising? It’s that time of year again. The Christmas season.
I never quite know how I’ll react to the holidays. Two years ago, I was ready early. I had the advent calendars made up and everything. It was a rare year. Last year, I barely got the tree up and really didn’t even want to think much about Christmas, I was at the other extreme. I usually sit somewhere in the middle. Both equally anticipating and dreading Christmas.
A few weeks ago I read a blog I follow which turned my thinking upside down. The Inspired Room by Melissa Michaels is about making our houses into homes. She posted a blog entitled Simply Inspired Holidays: First Things First. (You can read it here, you won’t regret it.)
She writes: “I believe that if we begin this season with an intentional focus on gratitude, we’ll be inspired to create a special atmosphere in our home for celebrating.”
My brain clicked on and started to work as she asked three questions. The first was what matters most to us this holiday season and the second “What are you most grateful for? Ask yourself how gratitude can help you shape your holiday plans and expectations.”
I stopped there. What? I had never looked at Christmas through the filter of gratitude. Not really. Not beyond the we should be grateful for the baby Jesus and let’s try to manufacture that feeling this holiday, amid all the spending, and frenetic hype. Not very inspiring. Instead it was just another thing to do on my getting-longer-by-the-moment TO DO list.
But Michael’s questions made me focus. I couldn’t actually answer it right away unless I wanted pat answers, which I didn’t. I’ve been mulling these over for weeks. What am I really thankful for and how does that translate into making Christmas more meaningful? How does it look in my house? These were significant questions because frankly I haven’t been feeling very grateful lately. Christmas was just going to make me feel more guilty for my less then stellar attitude. The answer had been to avoid the holiday. But maybe I could change my perspective.
Baby steps. I thought to myself. I can do this in baby steps. Embrace the holidays but not the consumerism. Not the should do’s and must do’s. I will do what is best and important for me and my family. Because my husband is a pastor, he’s already busy this time of year, I don’t want to add to it.
These are the things I’m grateful for this year. They may seem simple but hopefully in these small things, I will come alive to the bigger things.
I am grateful for the rich colours at Christmas time when it can be dreary and grey. I love red so I am thankful for the deep, rich tones that are woven through this season. I want to colour up my house this Christmas because I love bright, colourful things. It will help my mood stay more cheery.
I am grateful for twinkling lights. – Christmas lights on houses, on trees. Candles burning. They are warm and inviting when it can be cold and dreary. When we feel frosty and grey on the inside the lights invite us into their warmth. They point to the Light of the World who is also inviting us in. I need that reminder some days. I also want my kids to feel like their home is warm and inviting. That they are accepted here.
I am grateful for the many blessings we are given here in North America. I am grateful we are privileged and have the ability to share with others who are not as blessed. I want to focus on sharing.
Speaking of gifts, I love giving good gifts. I worked in a gift shop after I graduated from university and it was a great lesson in giving. I appreciate when someone has thought about the gift they want to give. We’ve all been there when we’ve purchased something quick and easy. It happens but I don’t want it to be the norm. Nor should we stress about buying the perfect gift. Because it’s not about that either. But a little thought can go a long way. For some, a gift card is the perfect gift. For others it’s about time spent with the person or being given the gift of time for themselves. As I said, it doesn’t have to be complicated but maybe this year we can take a few minutes to think of the person we love and are thankful for before we buy. Most times we are more touched by the fact someone actually thought about us than the gift itself.
Those are the things I’ve chosen to focus on this Christmas. Every year we look to make it meaningful and more times than not, I, at least, come away feeling empty and guilty because I feel that way. Maybe my focus needs to change. Maybe as we pick and choose what matters most and filter it through the lens of gratefulness, we will be pointed back to greatest Gift given. The only Gift we ever really need.
Luke 2:11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. NASB (emphasis mine)