Since Thanksgiving, my social media feeds have been saturated with links to holiday recipes and gift ideas, Advent activities and Christmas crafts, elf-on-a-shelf shenanigans and tree cutting trips, family photo session proofs and holiday hairstyles, festive get-togethers and cookie baking sessions, handmade card-making and life group service projects.
It’s all good stuff, but if I’m not careful, the plethora of pretty pictures will begin to pump up inside me a crippling pressure to create a Christmas experience full of twinkling magic and intentional moment-making for my family.
The reason this pressure inside me could be crippling is the fact that this year, we’re not even putting up a Christmas tree.
It’s only the third time in 25 years that we haven’t one up, and each time it was because we were in a major family transition. One year, we had moved 1,100 miles away from home, and the thought of unpacking yet another box after already unpacking hundreds of other boxes overwhelmed. Also worth noting? We were new to town, had no friends or family nearby, and didn’t have the cash to fly home, so we ate Christmas dinner alone at a Denny’s.
Another time, we not only made a 2,300 mile move, but we also had our first baby and were just too tired to put up the tree that year.
This year, we’re not putting up the tree because we sold it — along with 98% of our worldly possessions — to prepare for yet another life change.
So… while Christmas is happening all around us, it still doesn’t feel like Christmas for our family.
In the past, when “Christmas spirit” eluded me, it’d make me feel out of sorts. Because if my family wasn’t thoroughly captivated by the charm of the season, then I’d feel like I had somehow failed them.
Driving these emotions is a pure desire to develop time-honored traditions. After all, I want my kids to look back on our Christmas customs remembering them as both warm and true, memorable and meaningful.
And while most years, my husband and I do succeed in developing and upholding time-honored Christmas traditions, the reality is that there have been some years when our efforts have fallen short or flat, or have been non-existent all together.
And you know what? When that happens, it’s okay.
Because Christmas isn’t Christmas because of trees decorated beautifully, cookies frosted perfectly, or Advent candles arranged flawlessly. No.
Christmas is Christmas because of a teenage kid whose faith wowed God so much that He picked her as a willing and worthy vessel to deliver His tiny Son into the world.
Christmas is Christmas because an angel brought word about the Christ, and it was “good news of great joy” not just for an elite few but “for all people” (Luke 2:10).
Christmas is Christmas because it is the birthday of the King of All Kings, the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace.
So you know what? If this year, you find yourself in a life circumstance where the ornaments have to remain in the closet, the cookies have to come from a store, and the cards never get addressed, give yourself a break.
And then gather your loved ones together to sing happy birthday to Jesus, because that’s what makes Christmas, Christmas… even when Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas at all.