The days leading up to Christmas are quickly running out and I find myself wondering when this sacred holiday became so complicated. Was it when we started putting more faith in what marketers told us would bring us joy instead of putting our faith in the thing, the person, that brought so much joy on that first Christmas?
I look around and I see people crumbling under the pressures of the season. Pressure to have the tree perfectly decorated. Pressure to have a beautifully decorated home, one that will provide the perfect backdrop for those perfect family photos. Pressure to have perfectly chosen gifts that are wrapped in fancy paper for everyone on the list, and then some. Because, you know, there is always somebody else to buy for. Pressure to have piles of the seasons hottest gifts perfectly wrapped and stacked under the tree in order to give our kids the perfect Christmas. Pressure to partake in all of those kid-friendly traditions. Elf on the Shelf. Visits, and letters, and cookies for Santa, not to mention the perfect photo shoot with the Man in Red. Pressure to have perfectly dressed kids that perform in Christmas programs.
We are a society that has become enslaved to the standards that have been set before us. The standards that marketers have been selling us. The standards that have been established online as we view those digital Christmas home tours, right there on our screens. As we see photos of children who look like they have been dressed by their own personal stylist. As we look at over-the-top Christmas light displays and endless ads selling us the most wanted gifts of the year. We don’t even have to go anywhere anymore to feel like we aren’t living up to the standards of the season.
But the truth is, we don’t have to be enslaved to any of this. Sure, it’s great to put up a few lights and decorate the tree, and have some gifts under it, but it doesn’t have to be immaculate. Our kids will remember Christmas being special even if the exterior of our houses can't live up to Clark Griswold’s display of lights. Even if the interior of our homes fails to make the grade in the classroom of Martha Stewart. Even if we haven’t made it a Christmas of Pinterest-worthy crafts, or baked goods, or family photos.
And I know this because I speak from experience. As I was growing up, my mom minimally decorated the house each Christmas. But what she did do always felt special. I remember the simple way she decorated the house every year, and I remember how it made me feel. Cozy, loved, and special. And I am thankful that she didn’t do more than that. After all, it would have set just one more standard that I would be pressured to live up to once I had my own kids and was given the task of holiday decorating.
By embracing simplicity, what would we gain? Time? Money? Moments with our children that would otherwise be missed in all of the busyness? Peace in our hearts instead of the all consuming anxiety that so often breaks us this time of year? A moment to focus on the greatest gift that was given to us by our Heavenly Father? A moment to focus on the simplicity of that first Christmas and what it means for our lives? I suspect that giving up the efforts for a perfect Christmas would realign our hearts with what really matters. I suspect that we would truly be able to rest in peace.
The Son of God was born so that we would no longer have to be enslaved to our sin. Or to the standards of society or to the guilt that we aren’t living up to those standards.
Why not look to the simplicity of the first Christmas as a guide? This is a season that was born out of our need for peace, by a Savior who was born in simplicity. A lowly woman, a bright star, a stable, and the precious child who was wrapped in nothing more than rags. That stable should have been glamorously decorated based on who was housed inside. But it wasn’t. No amount of lights, ornaments, or money could have made the precious gift of Jesus Christ any better.
On the surface it would appear that, for Christmas, our children simply want all the toys that money can buy. But their hearts and souls crave truth and guidance, with perhaps a dash of sparkle and shine. This truth and guidance comes from scripture, and from unhurried moms who take the time to teach their kids the precious words found in the Bible. Who take the time to teach them that life isn’t made of perfect holidays or beautiful decor or exquisite gifts, but it is made through the birth and death of a man named Jesus.