Weary traveler find Christmas rest

Some of my Facebook friends post images of people dancing as they announce how many weeks are left till Christmas. Some have been saying for months they look forward to the familiar Christmas carols. 

Me? I’m looking for an excuse to cancel Christmas. 

It’s not that I hate Christmas. 

I just hate the idea of rummaging through an overcrowded storage space to get to the Christmas decorations. I break into a sweat thinking about cards. I know before the family get-together I’ll lose sleep to make my house look the way I wish it looked every day. 

I’ve asked my husband if we could skip the presents this year. He answered the way my mom so often has: “But, Amber, it’s Christmas.”

What is Christmas?

Is it the tree and the cards and the presents and the parties? Would everything crumble in the absence of those elements?

Maybe the reason I drag my feet when the Christmas season approaches is because I know my home will not be Better Homes and Garden-like. Our Christmas spread will not be Pinterest perfect. As organized as I try to be, chances are good I will end up at the store at least once, maybe even two or three times, the day of the family celebration, getting the things I forgot. 

The fact that I don’t measure up is the very reason I ultimately decide to keep celebrating Christmas. 

That is Christmas.  

Christmas is knowing we don’t measure up. Christmas is God saying, “You don’t need to measure up. Here is plan B, where I swoop in and rescue you, and you don’t need to do anything but bask in undeserved love.” 

That’s the celebration I crave. It’s being reminded of the height and depth and breadth of God’s love. It’s the meditative longing of the hymn’s words: “Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive [me].” And it sounds like the familiar words of promises kept: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world . . .” (Luke 2).

The Christmas I want can only be found when I don’t push God out of the celebration. His persistence to send light to a dreary world motivates me to love and serve others. 

So, once again this year as every year, my heart will get there. The kids will prompt, and we’ll put up the tree and the stockings and the lights. By the time Christmas arrives, I’ll be ready to celebrate the baby who meets my worried heart and troubled mind and quiets my fears of not being enough. 

I may not have the most decorated house, and it may be cheese and crackers again, but I’ll be there next to the shepherds in front of the manger saying, “I’m so glad you’re here.”  

Amber Albee Swenson has authored four books, writes an occasional devotional blog, and is a regular contributor to several Christian organizations. In 2011 she started speaking to women with the intent of bringing the Bible to life in tangible, applicable ways.

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