It’s Not Our Job to Make Christmas SpecialOn December 24, 2019 by Amy BurginReading Time: 4 minutes
On Saturday, December 21st, I made a cup of coffee, raised the blinds of my bedroom window, sat in bed and wrote out my morning pages. Morning pages are just a dump of your brain onto paper. Julia Cameron taught me about them in her book The Artist’s Way. I’ve found they help me know and name the state of my heart and mind. They provide an outlet for me to pour my thoughts out to God and make room for him to address them. It’s usually by page three I come across a root issue in my heart or a lie I believe. God, being My Good Protector from my own crazy brain, speaks truth in the pages that follow and the treasures found change my life.
I Fail and Don’t Have Awesome Christmas Traditions
This morning is not different except the treasure isn’t found until page five. The first four pages list my failures and God’s goodness in between the little lovely pleasures of life. It all feels random. A condensed smattering on this day looks like this:
I failed my daughter.
God is my Gift, my Rock, my Savior.
A bird is singing outside.
I failed my son.
God is the corrector of my wrong-thinking.
I love seeing the beautiful trees outside my window.
Then my mind transitions to my frustrations with the Christmas season. I cringe to share what I wrote with you,
It’s Christmas and I almost hate it.
Oh, I sound like such a scrooge! I serve as a Sunday School teacher for kindergarten. Each Sunday before class, the teachers and coordinators meet together. Last Sunday, the Children’s Pastor asked us a question, “What is your family’s Christmas tradition?”
I stay out of the conversation because I’ve tried a few beautiful traditions, but they’ve mostly failed.
I can’t avoid it as she calls me out personally, “Amy, what traditions do you guys do?”
My mind is filled with all the traditions I wish my Christmas was filled with and every failed attempt to make Christmas special. I didn’t even learn the word “advent” until I was in my late thirties and have been trying to figure out how to “do advent” well ever since.
I once bought an advent wreath but I forgot to light the candles.
I once read an advent story Jotham’s Journey to the children. We weren’t able to finish before Christmas.
I once bought Ann Voskamp’s beautiful pop-up book, The Wonder of the Greatest Gift–An Interactive Family Celebration of Advent but someone groaned when I pulled it out. We never finished it.
It’s just one failure after another.
I respond dryly, “We make a gingerbread house.” It’s something we’ve done the last few years. We make it from scratch and it’s beautiful with stain-glass windows and little lights inside. Our amazing neighbors taught us how. I explain some of those details and try not to look too drab, but I can barely smile because the thought of doing it this year is exhausting. Why am I such a scrooge?
I tend to look forward to the end of the Christmas season so I can stop wasting money on useless gifts, stop eating sugar and worship God again in the quiet places of life. The obligatory work and consumerism involved are heavy burdens to carry – buy, buy, buy, give, give, give and do, do, do until you’re broke and exhausted.
Should We Carry the Burden of Making Christmas Special?
I continue my morning pages and see on paper a familiar whisper I hear toward the end of every Christmas season.
You didn’t plan enough for your family.
You never found the perfect gift for him.
You didn’t do it right.
And then, seven words spill out onto the paper like tears,
You didn’t make it special enough.
When I write these seven words, I feel something special in my spirit, a nudge.
The finger of God pinpoints these words.
This little nudge speaks volumes and I immediately know I’ve discovered a lie rooted in my life. Truth flows forth quickly to uproot and replace it as I continue to write.
It’s not my job to make Christmas special – Jesus already did that.
It’s my job to make room for Jesus, like the innkeeper did, even if I can’t get it together enough and it ends up in the “mess of my stable.”
It’s my job to take the imperfect space available, like Mary did, as she birthed Jesus in the stable … because it’s not about the space, it’s about him.
It’s my job to seek him for myself and tell others when I’ve found him, like the shepherds did.
It’s my job to hope the miracle of Christ is bigger than my failures.
And isn’t that the good news of Christmas? That the job we’ve been given is not too heavy for us to carry? That Christ carries the big job for us?
That he comes when we make room in the midst of our mess? Immanuel, God with us.
That he comes when our room isn’t good enough? Immanuel, God with us.
That he tells us where to find him and we do when we seek him? Immanuel, God with us.
I Am Doing Christmas Right and You Probably Are Too
And so this Christmas, I make room, seize the unlovely spaces, seek him and know I’m “doing Christmas” and I’m “doing advent” right. I’ve been doing it pretty well all along.
Doing Christmas right is looking back and seeing him and his good work in the midst of our failures. A Christmas tradition? Every Christmas morning, our kids wake up early and make us pancakes before they wake us up. Maybe I failed them, but they are amazing.
Doing Christmas right is making room and taking the space in front of us now in all its imperfections and seeing the wonder of the love of Christ with us. A Christmas tradition? Leaning into the word of God over and over as a family even when it sometimes comes with a groan or we’re 7 days behind, or more.
Doing advent right is looking forward to the future with the hope he will be with us and ours forever and will continue his good work in our lives. A Christmas tradition? Praying, always praying, bringing my hard, hurting requests to him over and over because he is my only hope.
We’re not called to make Christmas special.
We are called to know it is and when our know-er feels a little broken, we’re called to hope it is. And our Hope is never broken.