You can decorate to the nines and pile presents high up around the tree. You can set the perfect table. You can show up to every holiday party in the ugliest Christmas sweater and bring the very best dish to pass. You can have your Christmas playlist set in October, and you can shop craft stores in September for first pick of everything red and green.
You can do all of these things and miss it entirely–the still small voice of Christmas tugging at you in a way that none of the above ever could or ever will.
Even though I know deep down that the true meaning of Christmas is outside of glitz and glamour, I think I’ve tasted a watered down version of this beautiful season because the distractions that surround it are all so seemingly attractive and full of sparkle.
Isn’t this true of so many things in life? How many times have I started in on something with great intention, but then been too easily drawn in another direction?
We pulled out decorations this weekend, and Jason hauled them downstairs in bins so that we could “put up Christmas,” as if hanging wreaths and setting out decorative pillows could translate into Christmas actually arriving here in the little blue house. Undeniably, the lights on the tree and each memorable ornament lend a spirit of Christmas to our home in this season. But if I think for a moment that putting up the tree translates to Christmas descending on our space, I have some heart work to do.
As timing would have it, the first day of December fell on a graceful Tuesday this year. Tuesdays are our down day in the week. Yesterday morning, Christmas boxes still strewn about the living room and ornaments just waiting to breathe, there was room in the day to let the morning stretch itself out wide. The kids and I decorated and played, danced and sang, twirled and decorated some more. This isn’t the norm for us–in fact, I’ve discovered I’m actually quite terrible at engaging in play the way the kiddos always wish I would. But yesterday, held accountable by the advent of this graceful December, and desiring that Henry and Eloise would experience something set apart this Christmas season, I swallowed down all of the things that didn’t register as true Christmas in my heart.
We stayed in our pjs long past lunchtime, which is foreign and uncomfortable for me, but a delight to the kids. We danced with snowflake wands and sang along to Frozen, sprinkled the tree with ornaments as playing and dancing permitted, and read together about Jesus’ own family tree.
I tried to focus on ushering breath into the first day of December. Honestly, it went against the grain of everything within me. Even though I’m not dwelling on lists at the moment, there were plenty of things I would have loved to accomplish by nap time that were sidelined instead. But here’s what I realized in the midst of doing my best to live gracefully throughout the day:
Christmas is arriving.
Christmas isn’t something I can manufacture–not in anything I produce, not in any number of decorations, and not in my heart.
Christmas happens. It happens when we’re giving it space and room to gracefully and quietly come in.
It happened when an unsuspecting young woman said yes to a holy, trustworthy God. It happened when her husband believed with her that the fulfillment of God’s promises and plan were not too great for them to cradle together. It happens when little ones draw close to hear stories of this Jesus who came down to earth as a tiny babe.
I couldn’t have found Christmas at Hobby Lobby or TJ Maxx or somewhere online yesterday, because both the day and my spirit begged for something different. Instead, Christmas came in on the heels of ornaments clumped together on boughs at two year old height. It came raw and unpolished, imperfect and full of grace in the wonder of something arriving through unencumbered eyes.
A graceful December, for me, means an exercise in self-restraint. It also means a prayerful consideration of the day, every morning, before my own desires and plans get in the way of Christmas truly happening in my home and heart.
I think it lovely that so many of us have the time and resources to create spaces in our homes that remind us it’s Christmas time. No doubt this brings joy to little ones, and to all of us who carry fond memories of how magically Christmas descended on the world when we were young. I’m grateful, too, that no matter how much or how little we do to “put up Christmas” around the house, it’s going to come anyway–and more gracefully, perhaps, when we set our sights on the empty and expectant manger, breathing deeply together at this time of year in wonder and in wait.
Praying that you find room to breathe deeply today,