It’s a time honored tradition.
Every year I tell myself, “This is the year. The year of Christmas Simplification. We are stripping it down… Going back to basics… Cuttin out the hoopla, man.”
Not that hoopla is all bad, of course. Why some of my best Christmases have involved plenty of it. But I’m talking about the stressful hoopla. The overspending, overeating, overdoing, overwhelming kind. Yeah, that hoopla aint no good.
Are you tired of me saying hoopla yet? Ok, I’ll stop.
So then I say to myself, I say, “Nancy” (cause that’s my name) “You can do BETTER than this! You don’t have to give in to the Christmas Crazy Train (not too be confused with the Ozzy Osbourne Crazy Train… although come to think of it…). It is NOT a foregone conclusion. You have a choice. You CAN choose to be reasonable. To be responsible. Even intentional. And draw… what are those things called again?… oh yeah. Boundaries.
And I mean it. I really do.
So I go into December, basically without a plan, but with very high hopes and ideals. Yep, keepin it simple. Which feels great. Until… riiiiiight about now, when the reality sets in that it’s 10 days until Christmas… and the idea of showing up at various family gatherings with nothing but a speech about “Christmas Simplification” all of a sudden sounds very, very stupid… and I start to think of all of the wonderfully creative and thoughtful home made, sentimental gifts I should’ve started working on (but didn’t) months ago… and somehow I know in my heart I will end up at walking the same lame last minute zombie walk of shame (wow, look at me laying down rhymes) through various department stores and pushing the limits of free 2 day shipping to their utmost.
Like I said, it’s a time honored tradition.
Every single year.
Am I the only one who does this?
But I think, maybe not.
Oh, I know some of you out there totally cannot relate. You are the responsible list makers, budget and boundary setters. You are the reason we have the word reasonable. And you have my utmost admiration.
But for the rest of us… why do you suppose we struggle so with this whole Christmas expectation thing?
Well, I guess I can only speak for myself. So I’ll just do that.
I think I have this tendency to think in terms of the “ideal situation”, whether that scenario is the Homespun Little House (Let’s just paint rocks and leave them in the woods this year!) Version or the Materialmania FirstWorldFest Edition. It’s kind of like a pendulum. And both sides of it are far more real than ideal… and what I mean by that is, bottom line: there IS no ideal. Not in going full scale, and not in scaling back.
There’s NO such thing as a perfect Christmas.
You’d think I’d know this by now. You’d think the whole first Christmas story (no, not the Buddy the Elf one, the Jesus one), with all its scandal (she’s pregnant with whose child???) “no room at the Inn”, and downright farm animal smelliness would set the precedent to be ok with a little chaos. You’d think, right? It’s funny, because I would NEVER peg myself as a perfectionist. Faaahaaaar from it. Come on. Some of you know me. You know what a joke that is, putting perfection and me together at the same table.
I think I DO think in terms of perfection. I may not have the stats to back it up, but oh wow, the pressure is real. I tell you, my friends, there’s nothing worse than being a Type A in a Type B body. I concoct these “wouldn’t it be great” scenarios in my head… never mind the fact that they are wildly unrealistic… whether on the too much, or too little side… and then end up perpetually disappointed with myself that I couldn’t pull them off.
And all the while there’s so much beauty and and fun and even profundity to be found in the imperfection. In the unexpected moments. The unplanned. The serendipitous.
Like this quirky little “Christmas” tree. Recently, I had the very unexpected opportunity to attend a wedding of a dear friend – in Florida, woohoo! (Believe me, this is not a regular occurrence, jet setting off for the weekend, but I went with it cause, you know, Florida). And as such, found myself walking on a secluded, lovely beach at sunset with a small group of friends… and at the far end of our walk, came upon this sight.
Someone had adorned this barren little tree with with the finest decking that beach had to offer. I guarantee you 99.979% of the world was never going to see this. But we did. And though it’s silly to think it was there just for us, I’m going to think it anyway. It was a gift. In that moment. For us. Would it have still been there if we had never seen it? Yes. And that’s why it was such a stunning gift. Those gifts are everywhere. Waiting to be stumbled upon. And if we never stumble upon them, in those unexpected moments, we will miss them. But the amazing thing is, they’re still there. Waiting to be discovered. Waiting for us to open our eyes.
Kind of like, oh, you know, that whole chaotic scenario that introduced an obscure little crying baby into the world? You know, that baby in Whom the entirety of God dwelt? There was simplicity, to be sure. And let’s not forget obscurity. Oh, but don’t miss the splendor! Because it’s there, too.
Spartan or spectacular is not the point. Opening our eyes to the Glory of God in the imperfection of all points on that spectrum is the point. Because it’s there. Waiting for us to find it. Even, I would contend, leading us to it… if only we would open our eyes.
So yeah, I’m not saying that cures all of my weird unrealistic Type B Perfectionist ills.
And I’m not even saying I won’t end up doing a little Zombie walking at the Mall.
But I am saying that I’m learning to open my eyes more and more.
And hopefully that is becoming my new time honored tradition.
Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.