As long as I can remember, the days from Thanksgiving to Christmas have always been my most favorite days of the year. During childhood, my parents held, almost religiously, to a set of traditions. I knew that every Thanksgiving Day, we would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on the television set. My mom would have chips, French onion dip, Hickory Farms beef stick, cheeses, and crackers that we could snack on during the parade. Once Santa made his appearance on that black and white screen, I knew we could go upstairs into my parents’ bedroom closet to fetch the purple polka-dotted case that held the Christmas records. My dad would mute the television to drown out the football commentators, and we would put five records on the player. There was no Christmas music allowed before this point. The next day my mom would set up and decorate the Christmas tree. As the days progressed, other traditions would be held to–Whitman’s chocolates, cutout Christmas cookies, Christmas specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Christmas Eve always brought a candlelight service at church with a family gathering following that. If my now grown kids read this, I’m sure they will nod their heads because so many of the above listed traditions are ones they grew up with as well.
I definitely love Christmas. My love language is gifts. I love giving gifts to the people I love. For as long as I can remember, I have loved buying and wrapping presents. As a young mom, I reveled in watching my children’s excited faces as they unwrapped the exact item they had asked for often between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I remember one year, our then four year old son wanted a particular toy. You see, it was the year that the first Toy Story movie came out. Our son loved Buzz Lightyear. He repeatedly asked for the talking Buzz Lightyear–push the buttons on his wrist and he would say, “To infinity–and BEYOND!” The only problem was that every other kid in America had also fallen in love with Mr. Lightyear. We searched every store in the area. We had out of state friends searching their stores. There wasn’t a Buzz to be found. I was devastated to think that Christmas morning would come and our little guy would be disappointed. As the days to Christmas grew fewer and fewer, I found myself in a local store to pick up our layaway. Sitting on the layaway counter was…YES! A Buzz Lightyear! It was not green and white like the traditional Buzz but rather silver, but it talked the same and had the same space helmet. I asked the lady why it was sitting there. She told me someone had changed their mind after taking it off layaway. I left that day with the much coveted Buzz Lightyear…and come Christmas morning, our son was thrilled to open the toy he had asked for the most.
I could go on and on with story after story about happy Christmas memories. Now, though, there are no children in our home to radiate the excitement and wonder of Christmas, no cookies and milk left out for Santa, no one to wake us early on Christmas morning, excited to get to the living room to see the piles of presents under the tree and the filled stockings hanging on the wall.
This year I find myself extremely stressed over Christmas. Money for gifts is tight–a chronic illness has a way of sucking dollars from a budget. I still love to give gifts, but admittedly, it is more difficult to buy gifts for adult children than little children. I find myself feeling angst at the thought of all that needs to be done in the next week. Not because I hate Christmas–I don’t–but because this year, for the first time since our kids were born, I am working a retail job during the Christmas season. Working leaves little time for me to get all the expectations completed. Work, combined with a chronic illness, also depletes any energy reserves I once had. Presents need to be bought and wrapped, cookies need to be baked, the regular chores of the household still need to be done…I find myself frustrated and overwhelmed at the thought of Christmas this year.
I think of the words to some of my favorite Christmas songs:
“Joy to the world the Lord has come…”
O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth…”
Silent night, holy night all is calm, all is bright…”
These lines all imply peace, yet peace is something I have not been able to find this Christmas season. I also seem to be missing joy. Christmas has become a never ending list of to-do’s with a body that is screaming “Don’t!”. Every television commercial tells me I need to give the perfect gifts and decorate the perfect tree with the perfect trimmings and cook the perfect meal and bake the perfect cookies…you get the idea.
I desperately want the peace of Jesus this Christmas season, yet the more I long for it, the farther away it seems to be. I don’t want to be the person who wishes the Christmas season away.
I need a silent night…