Sunday, December 20, 2015

'Tis the Season

Even though the world as a whole tends to take a collective breath around Thanksgiving and Christmas, what with days off and such, my life tends to get a little busier than usual. Once I hit Thanksgiving I know finals are just around the corner. My schedule changes at school, so that throws me off; things at the store start getting crazy right after Halloween and continue to be crazy until mid-January. 
Needless to say, by the time Christmas comes around I'm ready to beg, borrow or steal just to get some time off to rest. Oh, but then there is shopping. And cleaning. And wrapping presents. And did you remember to do office gifts? Are you out of coffee? For like a week? Do you remember the last time you did laundry?
I've written about it before and I'm sure I will do it again next year. I feel totally out of spirits and almost like I need to turn my Christian card in, but Christmas is hard for me as an adult. 
Growing up, I LOVED Christmas. So much. I would start listening to Christmas music in July. JULY, people. I mean I see it now, that's a little crazy. But I couldn't get enough of Christmas carols and the warm memories that Christmas would bring for me. Twinkle lights and candy canes, sugar cookies and Christmas trees-- these were things I loved. I don't know if it the stress of finals and end of term papers and grades that I suffer vicariously through my students or the whole retail mess (that I promise I am still thankful for) but somewhere in there, I get so downtrodden. Could I please just have a break?!
I had my annual "Christmas is overwhelming me and I know it shouldn't be!" meltdown on Friday (sorry Jen) and after some hugs and love from mom (thanks Mom), I think I started to calm down. 

 Saturday saw another busy day at the store, which is par for the course, especially as it was the last Saturday before Christmas. But since it was Saturday, it also meant that I could cross one more thing off my to-do list: stop at Jo-Ann's for the needles I needed to finish a Christmas present. They had exactly what I needed and I think I found myself skipping back to the break room for the second half of my break. I got a lot of odd looks from my co-workers and one even commented, "Wow. You are really REALLY happy." And then I realized. I was happy. I was excited about SOMETHING. And I liked it. 

So even though I really was half-asleep this morning getting ready for church (I guess that is what happens when you spent 1.5 hours finishing a knitting project and feeling so pleased that you just.can't.fall.asleep...) I was excited to get to church. And even though I didn't drink enough coffee and got there a tad late, I was glad to be there. And even though I had to leave to go to work (to sit in a very QUIET library), I got to sing some Christmas carols with my people. And like the giant nerd that I am, found myself crying. THIS is where my heart longed to be. Not at work or running around getting stressed out, but with my church family, with my actual family. Making time to sit and sing and learn. And maybe that's the key: MAKING time. I kind of expect Christmas spirit and joy to just happen. In the crazy traffic and cranky customers, I just expect joy to be sprinkled on my like fairy dust. 

But that can't be right, can it? In today's sermon, Pastor Tim made a very interesting point. We hear it every year: In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world...and everyone went to their own town to register. We read and think, "Yes, okay. This needed to happen because of prophecy and we know that God keeps his word. Of course this makes sense." But stop for a moment and consider: taking a census takes TIME. It wasn't a whim. Caesar didn't just wake up one day and decide, "Census! Great idea!" God gave him the idea IN ENOUGH TIME for him to think it was his own idea (probably. God is sneaky like that sometimes.), talk to his advisers, and get the word out. And then enough time for word to go out to the entire Roman world. And enough time for everyone to hear it. Enough time, now that people know, to pack and make arrangements to go home. AND, of course, it all has to coincide with Mary's pregnancy so that Jesus will be born in the right place at the right time. This isn't magic, ya'll. This is a carefully planned historical event. If you want to have a good party, let God plan it. 
Anyway. I digress. The thing is, if the first Christmas took planning and lots of preparing, what makes us think that every other Christmas won't require the same amount of planning? 

So with that in mind, I'm going to prayerfully and mindfully prepare for Christmas. Not just by putting up the tree and lighting my Jack Frost candle (plus, I've already done that), but by choosing joy and choosing to make time to focus on the sacrifice that Jesus made by leaving Heaven to come to earth.
And right now, choosing joy looks like making a cup of tea to warm my fingers and my heart. Nothing speaks comfort like a cup of tea! 
I hope you remember to choose joy this week! 

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause GREAT JOY for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."
Luke 2:10-11