In years past when money was on the tighter side, I would run out in foolishness and run up the credit cards to fill the space beneath the tree. I'm not saying there are no credit cards involved in this Christmas, but there is a great deal more restraint than there has been before. And we don't even have a Christmas tree yet.
Until today, the only Christmas decoration out was the Advent wreath I created as a centerpiece for our kitchen table a couple of weeks ago. We've found ourselves seated around that wreath every night since two Sundays ago reading scripture and praying together. A lot of nights (most nights?) it's been much more chaotic than I have cared for. The night before last, in fact, I got up and walked away, not even finishing the process because of the arguing about who could light the candle and who could pray first. Lots of rudeness and one-up-manship. It's made me extremely frustrated with my children. The other night I even posted on Facebook that I found myself not even liking my kids. And I meant it. "I love them always," it said, but I don't always like them. They're so. very. HUMAN...
Today was my husband's day to edge towards his limit. He is well known in our neighborhood for his outdoor decorations, and here it is the 11th of December and he didn't even have any up. So this morning we had a goal of him getting the outdoor decorations done, then late afternoon we would go and get our tree and tonight while he is away getting his sleep apnea test done, I would put the lights on the tree (my single job of decorating.) But it didn't happen that way.
The kids who have driven me crazy at our Advent table most nights, drove their dad crazy with the fighting and arguing in the outdoor decorating process. I just sat in the house watching movies doing laundry and never even got out my pajamas. I listened from inside, at the arguing, at the yelling, at my husband's frustration rising. So much for the holiday cheer.
This morning, I woke thinking about my favorite Christmas carol, "Joy to the World." I really love the song, and last night I had a great evening out with a group of amazing ladies and we listened to a wonderful message about JOY. It talked about JOY being about Loving Jesus, Loving Others and Loving Yourself. And the speaker spoke about the importance of "Woohooo choosin' JOY!" For someone who has been struggling with her feelings lately, they were words of life, sage advice.
So this morning, as I lay in bed thinking about the song, the line that kept running over and over in my mind was this, "Let every heart prepare Him room..."
This is what we are lacking. We've had a lot of TALK around here about how this Christmas, we're, due to lack of "stuff," going to make the holidays more about Jesus. I cringe when I say that, but if we're honest, I'm sure most of us (if not all) have found ourselves getting caught up in the shopping, the spending, the decorating, the wrapping, even the celebrating, and doing it without giving Jesus a place, much less making him the center of our activities.
I have found myself happily anticipating a Christmas less "stuff-centered." I haven't been missing the crazed shopping (though I am somewhat stressing some about the one child who has NOTHING ready to go under the tree). And yet, even with that anticipation, I don't actually see us in a very CHRISTmas mindset.
We seriously need to decorate for Christmas. But it isn't the eaves outside, or even a tree in the living room that we need to be concerning ourselves with. We need to be decorating our hearts for the holidays.
I grew up in a house where my mom was extremely particular about her decorating. The tree in her home was artwork. Every light and ornament strategically placed. Every detail was given great care and focus. When I was little, I wasn't allowed to help, or even touch an ornament really. I have happy memories of watching my mom, but also the memories are a little stressful, I had to be careful where I sat, and where I walked. I would sit in awe while she created her masterpiece.
As an adult now, probably in rebellion to what I grew up with, and knowing I could never even come close to decorating a tree in the league of my mother I have gone to the extreme opposite. I don't put the ornaments on our tree. My children do it, and when they were little it would mean all the ornaments hung on the bottom half. And my husband does it, which means when we put it in the corner, there aren't any ornaments on the back side at all. When I was a youth leader my girls even did it, which meant it didn't have any of my style at all. But it's always been ok with me. The only part I take responsibility for is putting the lights on the tree, that job alone is mine, and has been for 20 years.
When Neal and I first got married and got our first tree we bought a noble fir. It was my family's tradition, but not his, but it didn't seem like a Christmas tree to me with out the beautiful branches that stood apart. When we got it home he started to put the lights on. He just circled the tree with them like he was playing "Here we go 'round the maypole," leaving all the wires in plain view. It was too much for me. I found there were 2 things that mattered to me when it came to decorating for Christmas, that the tree stood with beauty, and that nothing distracted from the lights, that they shone beautifully as though they were coming from deep inside the tree. It's my favorite part of Christmas, or at least the preparation of Christmas. I love to sit late at night after I finish putting all the lights on (because I always finish it late at night), and I just sit and admire the tree with the lights before any of them are obscured by the decorations. (This is the picture from last year.)
Tonight I was supposed to be doing that job, putting the lights on a beautiful tree. But our day didn't go as planned and so we don't have our tree yet. Instead I am sitting here writing to any of you who are willing to stop by for the read, and the thought keeps running through my mind.
I want to be that beautiful tree. I want to stand in a noble fashion. I want the Light in me to stand out in beauty, nothing detracting from it. I don't want the Light that shines in me to be all tangled up in stuff. I want instead for the Light to make me shine, in a way that celebrates CHRISTmas.
So tonight as I sit here, instead of putting lights on a tree, I am pondering the ways that I can more clearly decorate my heart for CHRISTmas.
These last two nights as we have gathered around the Advent wreath in prayer, my prayer has been one of repentance for my whole family. We're missing it, we are missing the anticipation of CHRISTmas, not of the gifts under the tree or a special fancy meal, but the anticipation of remembering and celebrating what this holiday is really all about.
We may not be anticipating a visit from Santa anymore, but in faith, I am praying that the true CHRISTmas Spirit will settle here, in our home, and even more importantly in our hearts. I hope that I can be a catalyst, and that my husband and children's hearts will be captured with this same desire.
Lord, let our home be filled with "trees" that shine Your Light, and celebrate You this season... in Jesus' name...