In "Other" Words ~ Year-Round Christmas

Christmas belongs to us, the believers of Christ, 
It doesn't belong to the world.
Christ needs to be elevated in our hearts year around.
He didn't come to be marketed, as a seasonal gift on sale for half price.
We were the ones that were bought at a price.
~ David Jeremiah

Christmas is in 5 days.  I am woefully unprepared.  Our tree stands in the living room, fully lit but barely decorated...over a week ago I told the children, "two ornaments apiece, and we'll finish it tomorrow..."  Or maybe a few days after tomorrow...*blush*

I bought my first Christmas gifts yesterday...thank goodness for Amazon and free SuperSaver shipping!  Hopefully today I will cross a few more off the list...I so want to be finished BEFORE Christmas Eve.  

I realized yesterday that I need a new "plan" for Christmas brunch...or breakfast, as it will need to be this year, due to Sunday morning church.   For various reasons, our traditional brunch fare won't work this year, so it's time to get creative quick.

And speaking of realizations, I realized in the wee hours this morning that I completely, totally FORGOT about our standing Christmas Eve tradition...the one package we open on Christmas Eve...just left it off the list entirely.  Realized entirely too late, as the Christmas budget is already past the point of last minute additions...a last-minute "what do I do now?" pickle that I seriously wish I had avoided. 

I had a list of Christmas crafts, ornaments, and gifts I really wanted to tackle with the children this year...I still hold out hope of accomplishing a *few* things off that list, but given the schedule for the week, it won't be nearly as many as I'd hoped. 

I'm reminding myself that considering the events of the last couple of months, I've actually done pretty well.  It isn't as though I've just been lollygagging. :)  Since the first of November I've had a couple of humdinger illnesses, one of which landed me in the ER, and both of which required some serious "down time" in order not to put myself even *further* behind.  And then there were the few days of electrical issues, which threw several kinks into our plans.  Amazingly, we made it through all the Christmas music at church (with all the associated extra rehearsals) pretty much without missing a beat.  They were wonderful, and a treasured part of our family Christmas traditions with our church family, but they definitely take a huge chunk of our schedule during holiday prep time.

And again today, as with so many Christmas seasons in recent years, we have a funeral to attend.  As we've been preparing for today, my mind has gone back to spending Christmas Eve at the funeral home 13 years ago after Granny Kitty died...to Daddy's funeral the day after the Christmas musical in 2004...and spending my birthday at the funeral home last year when Great-Papa died.  (Was that just last year?  Or two years ago?  The years seem to be running together...)  This year dear friends lost their mother/mother-in-law/grandmother.  She had been on hospice for 9 months and had her ups and downs, and yet...no one really expected it to happen now. 

As jarring as funeral homes and funerals and loss and grieving seem against the backdrop of the festivities of the holiday season, I am reminded again, as my friend said the other day, that this is what Christmas is all about.   While the grim reality of death seems so out of place in the midst of the season of joy and gladness...it's really what the joy and gladness are all about.

I remember walking the mall on Christmas Eve 13 years ago, shopping for earrings in which to bury my grandmother.  There weren't any suitable earrings from her collection which matched the suit in which she was to be buried, so with my mom and aunt busy with other details, I volunteered for earring duty.  

It was hard not to be sad walking through the mall that afternoon.  Christmas sweaters and Santa hats and funny reindeer antler headbands were everywhere.  There were clusters of happy shoppers with armloads of bags overflowing with gifts.  Of course, there were also the grumpy scrooge-type shoppers...the ones who complained about long lines, empty shelves, and crowded aisles.   I felt like such an out-of-place observer, distanced from the holiday frivolity by my somber mission.

Just as I found myself fighting tears, remembering many happy trips to that very mall with my grandmother in her healthier "shop-til-you-drop" days, realization dawned.  While I felt that the purpose of my trip was decidedly "un-Christmas-y", in reality, it pointed to the real meaning of Christmas in a way that the Christmas sweaters, reindeer antlers, and Santa hats couldn't begin to.  

God reminded me as I wove through the crowds that day of a truth I saw more clearly than I ever had before...a truth I had heard, and read, and said for years, but which I was actually experiencing in a whole new way.  The death that had propelled me to the mall, the grieving that I was experiencing as I walked along...they, not the holly and glitter of the holidays...they were truly the point.  

I realized that many of those happy shoppers I was passing might be experiencing the holiday spirit, but completely missing out on the Spirit of the holiday.  Although we were experiencing sadness in the fact that my grandmother wouldn't be there to celebrate Christmas, we had an amazing joy and certain hope in the knowledge that she was now worshiping her Savior face to face, and that we would see her again someday.  As our friend Jeanette Cox said, "This may be your worst Christmas ever, but it's her BEST one."  I've remembered that often this week.  

Decorated trees, holiday baking, beautifully wrapped gifts, family traditions...they are all wonderful parts of our Christmas celebration.  But as God keeps reminding me this year...they aren't the point.  They are fun, special, precious extras that hopefully help remind us, our families, and our friends of the true gift of Christmas.  But they aren't Christmas.  

Christmas is, as the quote above points out, all about OUR being bought...not on sale, but at the highest price imaginable.  And not as a last-minute fix to an unexpected problem, but as part of a divinely perfect plan from before the foundation of the world.  God created us KNOWING that we would sin, KNOWING that we would need a Savior, and PLANNING to send His one and only Son, fully God and yet fully man, to come to earth and die...for sinful, selfish, evil us.   The gift of Christmas is a year-round gift of hope and peace and joy found in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, His death on the cross to pay for our sin, and His glorious resurrection.  

I'm reminding myself this year that I need to let go of all the other stuff of Christmas, and focus on that truth.  The greatest gift I can give my family is not Christmas Eve pajamas, traditional brunch food every year, or a beautifully decorated tree.  The greatest gift I can give my family is to live out the year-round reality of Christmas every day, and to spend the Christmas season reminding them of that year-round reality in all that we do.  (Conversely, the worst thing I can do is get stressed and grumpy because Christmas isn't looking like I think it should or wish it would...not that I would ever do that...*whistles in the air*.  I still have a blog post pending from Thanksgiving about God using a friend to "sharpen" me a bit in that regard...God is still working on me!)

Thanks to Karen for hosting In "Other" Words this week.  Please visit her blog to see what she and others have to say about the above quote she selected for today.

P.S....Just as I was finishing this post, Billy called and said my Christmas Eve gift crisis had been solved.   God is good, always, and I am thankful! 


Karen said...

That was really good. It sounds so familiar as we bustle around trying to get everything done before Christmas. When people as if we are ready I tell them we are December 24th people. Those who wait to the last minute. With Christ I don't want to be a December 24th person, I want to be in the front of the line to see Jesus. I like what you said about people might have the Holiday spirit but do they have the Spirit of the holiday. There's a difference. Thanks for sharing.

t marie said...

More than a dozen people have asked me if I'm ready for Christmas. This is a bit amusing to me. I know what they mean, but the question means something else to me.

God has put me in a situation for the last few years in which I no longer have the opportunity to "get ready" for Christmas. No shopping, no tree of my own, and none of my previous traditions. It has humbled me and focused me.

I agree. Christmas should be year round.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing your heart. I could really relate, as seven years ago our son died exactly two weeks before Christmas. His funeral "decorations" were all Christmasy.

But what hope we have, because of that Babe that came for us - to die for us and to live for us so we can!

Yes, we need the reminder year around!

Denise said...

Such a great post.