I turned my shopping cart down the next aisle and felt a familiar tension creep into my neck. The trees, lights, wreaths, ornaments, candy canes and wrapping paper exploded in green and red. That familiar tension in my neck was one of bracing myself for what was to come: the stress of over scheduling, over spending, over eating. The stress also known as Christmas.
The holiday season can be a silent scream in our direction. One we can’t audibly hear, but we know is looming. With every Toys R’ Us advertisement, every commitment on our calendar, every tradition expecting to be continued, we feel the pressure of Christmas pressing down on us. Why? Because we are the Christmas orchestrators. Somewhere we’ve absorbed the message that this holiday must be made magical. Memorable. One for the Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds and commemorative scrapbooks. And we’ve taken on the task of making the magic happen. Because if we don’t, who will?
We stage-manage Christmas for our people. We bake, shop, wrap. We go to concerts, parties and send out cards. We do stockings, decorate the house (the office, even the car), and collapse at the end of it all. Because Christmas making is exhausting. There is always more that could be done – another tradition to start, another gift to buy (or worse, to make!), another address to track down. In this crazy making, because really that’s what it is, we lose the essence of the season. We forget that Christmas is about love coming down to earth.
When we stop and consider how this holiday started, we remember a mom and her baby. There is a single verse in the middle of the Christmas story that’s overlooked by many, but speaks directly to moms everywhere, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke, 2:19) Mary was in her post-delivery haze in a barn, in a strange city. Her visitors, the shepherds, had just left and I’m guessing there was a moment of quiet in the midst of the chaos that surrounded her. I imagine she looked at her baby, counted his toes, considered the miracle that he was, Emmanuel, God with us, and let the wonder of the moment swirl around in her heart. She didn’t pull out the Christmas lights or Elf movie to begin the Christmas merrymaking. She sat and considered that God, who is the very definition of love, had come in the form of a baby to express that love to the world.
No doubt there is real stress during the stretch of holiday season in front of us. There are extra bills and tenuous family dynamics we’d rather avoid. We feel the pull of added obligations push against an already busy life. And yet we are able to stop and consider that God came to express his love for us in the form of a baby. With just a few minutes a day, lighting a candle, sitting by the tree, listening to a favorite Christmas carol, we too can ponder in our hearts all that happened because God so loved the world, he sent a baby. We can allow love to be the loudest voice as we face the weeks leading up to Christmas. Because God didn’t come in flesh and bone that we might have the cutest seasonal throw pillows this December. He came that we might know his love in a new way, a life-altering way. And we can choose to listen to that voice all the way through the months ahead.
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Alexandra Kuykendall is a Christmas orchestrator in Denver, Colorado where she lives with her husband and four daughters. She is the author of Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season.