Wherever you are—going or staying. Whatever your circumstance—happy or less than. Whoever you are with—yourself, your family, or your friends. I wish you a wonderful celebration of Christmas.
The longer we live on the planet, the more obvious it becomes that no holiday can remedy what ails us, assuage what concerns us, or provide the lasting hope essential to our souls. What to do then…with the holidays?
Here’s my current recipe for holiday fare. Feel free to modify as you see fit, just don’t overcook it.
Take the holidays at face value. In other words, don’t over-invest your expectations in events with insane numbers of variables, insane relatives, and other insane unknowns and uncontrollable circumstances. Last I checked, I was the only sane person in my family. The same is probably true for you. So, be understanding and plan accordingly.
Enjoy the Christmas lights. Tonight. Go for a walk or a drive. Be present in this moment alone…and then the next moment alone…and then the next one. After your walk, come home, look at your tree. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy whoever is in the moment with you—they could be gone before you know it. Put the phone and electronics away. If something happens, you’ll find out.
Unless the house is on fire, relax and live in the moment. Here’s my mental game: I work hard to not adopt even a hint of attitude that Christmas is about me, for me, or so that I will be happier tomorrow. I help in the kitchen. I play with the kids. I enjoy each swallow of food and drink and pledge with my fingers crossed not to do either to excess. Of course, I exceed on some things, but the pledge prevents a complete train wreck…which means a little train wreck is important to the holiday spirit. You wouldn’t want the celebration to be a placid affair, would you? It certainly wasn’t the first Christmas.
Unless a profound offense occurs, I dispense with all outstanding accounts accrued during the holiday before the year ends. I have gone so far as to dig a hole in the back yard and put stuff in it that I do not wish to carry forward. If you need a shovel, let me know.
Unless there is a crisis on the front burner, put the electronics away. (I've said that twice now, i.e. to put the e-stuff away; now that's three times.) If you do indeed miss something important, whoever missed you will likely understand, and if they don’t, explain. If they still don’t understand, what are you doing working with them anyway?
When the family gets together, flex. Reminisce and celebrate who you are and who you are with. Dispense with the lead, news stories. You are not a pundit, and if you are, what are you doing working during the holiday? You are not going to solve the racial divide, convince anyone at the table that Washington is sane or in touch, and it is not your job to fix anyone or their kids unless they are fixing to jump out of a tree.
You get the gist of my thoughts, so mix and match and add ingredients to make your secret sauce for the next week or so.
But there is one final recommendation: At some point, retreat to the sidewalk or the porch or the park—alone. Preferably in the dark, so there are fewer distractions. Take off your glasses to further create insularity. Spend a few quiet moments reflecting on why you are celebrating Christmas. Express your appreciation that He came, that He did everything necessary to become approachable, and realize that had He not done this, your walk in the neighborhood or respite on the porch would be in vain and your hope would indeed be hitched to a make-or-break day in December.
Personally, I’m gearing up again this year for another wild-card Christmas, primarily because every Christmas I remember has been a wild-card happening. Like a few previous years, we have a plan, but you know as well as I do that plans are made to be changed.
I just checked and Christmas is still scheduled. It might not occur on the 25th, but we have almost a week blocked off to fit it in somewhere. I think New Year’s is probably going to occur on time. At least, it's still on my calendar.
Live in the moment. Love. Enjoy. Care for those around you. Don't get run over by them as that's against the rules of humanity, but bring all of yourself to the celebration of God's incarnation.
Over the next several days, as is my custom, I'll share some of my Christmas writings. I hope you enjoy them. Please read them, share them, make them part of Christmas if they advance you toward your Older Brother, born on Christmas Day.
Most of my stories aren't very religious. Actually, none of them are, but then not much about a baby being born in a barn strikes me as religious. Certainly not the birth of a baby that launched a revolution, caused children to be murdered, and while wise men sought him, so did the ancient dragon. The seers from the East wanted to worship Him, the dragon wanted to devour Him.
Unless the spirit comes over me mightily or God writes fresh thoughts on my bedroom wall that are imperative to your wellbeing, I’ll see you when the New Year dawns. Until then, have a wonderful Christmas. Barring something cataclysmic, we will march into the New Year together, arm-in-arm, children of grace, blessed with mercy, endowed with peace, and overwhelming conquerors through Him whom we celebrate now.