All month I've moaned and groaned about how busy Christmas makes me--all women, really. The baking. The cleaning. The decorating. The shopping and crafting and wrapping and card-addressing and checking lists and making lists and working so damn hard to make everyone happy.
And I realize it's my own fault for making Christmas work. People get nostalgic this time of year for something long ago that we remember and want to recreate. We hear a special song or see a coveted toy or maybe it's the piney smell of a fresh-cut tree. Personally, I get verklempt at church around the candles and the sound of a choir. Perhaps we need the perfect Christmas for ourselves to fill some empty
place, a loss or a loneliness. Maybe we're trying to do it for someone
else--give our spouse or child or friend the perfect gift or experience
this Christmas so they feel loved. We think to ourselves if I just work a little harder, put in a bit more effort, then this will turn out perfect. We all strive for the Norman Rockwell/Pottery Barn/Martha Stewart image of Christmas joy--maybe for one person it looks like matching sweaters on a ski hill, for another it's the whole family snuggled in to watch a holiday special on a big flat-screen TV with cups of cocoa and sugar cookies.
This message of Christmas perfection is repeated to us over and over in commercials and on Pinterest and even in movies as good-hearted as It's A Wonderful Life. We think if we can get all the pieces to fit together, the bows and candy canes and Silent Night and twinkling lights, our Christmas will be complete enough to make us happy. All we need is time, money and elbow grease to make it happen. Work harder we whisper to ourselves. Tie ribbons on those teacher gifts and buy everything the kids asked Santa for, bring homemade candy to the neighbors and wear something dazzling to the office party--it will be wonderful if we try hard and get it all done--then we can enjoy ourselves!
(And there's even more evidence of how we deceive ourselves into thinking our hard work at Christmas matters--the people lined up to return gifts the day after or heading out to shop or exchange for what they didn't get.)
Isn't that just like us humans? Taking something so simple and making it into so much work. Even worse, taking something so simple and believing the lie that it needs to be complicated.
Back up a couple thousand years and Christmas started in the most simple spot--a baby, a fulfilled promise to send a Messiah. Nothing's more helpless or common than a newborn baby, right? A baby for all the people, that's what the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on the night He was born. A Savior has been born to YOU...
God didn't outfit Mary and Joseph with a diaper genie and jogging stroller. No one was required to bring gifts or wash their hands or check in at the front desk when they visited that humble manger where Jesus lay in swaddling clothes. Think about it--what a basic image! A baby born in poor circumstances and surrounded by love. All He needed was right there. God provided everything that night.
It's so simple, God tells us. Just believe. That's it! We don't need to jump through hoops or stand in line or fill out forms or demonstrate some skill or talent. We don't need to put forth our puny human busyness and effort and try to earn our happiness and contentment and peace. If anything, the harder we try, the more frustrated we become because the peace and strength we need is beyond our grasp. That's the lie we tell ourselves: that if we work harder, achieve one more goal, acquire one more thing, seal one more relationship, then we'll find real happiness. But God doesn't care about our work, He's concerned with our hearts. He tells us so clearly that His plan is different than what we think it needs to be. He says, Believe. Take my gift to you. Here He is, Jesus, a baby born for all the people. Believe I sent Him for you and we'll take care of the rest--your sin, your frustration, your longing, your loneliness, your discontent, your doubt, your insecurity, your restlessness, your anger, your shame--take Jesus and let Him work that crap out of your life for you.
The work of Christmas started that night in Bethlehem, Jesus finished the work on the cross. All God asks of us is to take the gift He offers, His one and only Son, believe in Him. No work, just faith and through that faith, joy and celebration.
Writing this I realize how I bought the lie and let it distract me from Christmas's simplicity. Jesus, what a perfect gift! I don't need to work for my Christmas happiness, and neither do you! Praise God!
I hope you have a really happy Christmas, reader, and let someone else handle the work.