Christmas! Christmas means the candlelight Christmas Eve service at my grandparent’s church. It’s the smell of Granhannah’s homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, it’s the frenzy of wrapping paper and bows strewn across the Crume living room, it’s strawberry salad and pillow fights with my Smith cousins two days later. But mostly, Christmas is being together. Christmas is the big occasion to gather as a group and share in the holiday together.
You would not even believe these cinnamon rolls.
This year was a little different: two of my aunts and uncles couldn’t come Christmas Day with their families. I didn’t get to see five of my cousins. Christmas was quiet, and I wasn’t excited about it.
A spring snapshot of some of my dad’s family from a few years back, at my grandparents’ church
That didn’t keep me from celebrating the season as marking the entrance of Jesus Christ in our broken, sinful world, as both fully man and fully God, in order to redeem our lives to God the Father. That truth was still alive in my life, and still worth celebrating. But the celebration piece of that looked different, and the change threw me off.
Christmas began with the candlelight Christmas Eve service. My grandparents’ church has changed from the one of my childhood memories, filled with different people and missing a few. They have a new minister now, and frankly, I’ve never thought highly of his sermons. But that night, he said two important things that changed the way I looked at Christmas this year.
First of all, he asked: “If Christmas was tomorrow, would you be ready for it?” Moving past the fact that “tomorrow” WAS Christmas, I liked the question. I didn’t feel ready for Christmas. I hadn’t listened to enough Christmas music, I hadn’t sent all the cards I wanted to, I didn’t even have everyone’s presents. Couldn’t Christmas come a week later, so I could get everything done and have everything ready?
I think especially in today’s fast-paced world, if it doesn’t “feel” like Christmas, we believe we are doing something wrong. We haven’t done enough, or we’ve done too much – there’s no happy medium. That’s so damaging to what Christmas really is: a marked time to hold dear the truth that God’s love brought His Son to earth as a baby to die for my sin. Instead of putting this pressure on ourselves to “experience” Christmas, we could be enjoying what time and blessings the season holds just the way it is.
At the Christmas Eve service, Reverend Campbell also said that whatever our expectations are for Christmas, God is bigger than all of them. Isn’t that wonderfully comforting? It matters so little how I feel about Christmas, and so much more that regardless of that, Christmas still is. We can’t mess it up! God loves to watch us delight in the blessings He gives us – family, friends, love, peace, joy, and His presence. However we expect Christmas to look or feel or be, God’s plan is infinitely greater, and infinitely better than our own, and enjoying those blessings is the best way we’re able to celebrate and be at the center of that plan.
So this Christmas, I was determined to be excited to love my family and enjoy every moment and every blessing of the day. We woke up and ate homemade cinnamon rolls, then tore into our stockings full of gifts. My uncle and his family came over, and we all opened gifts together as a family, and sent pictures to the cousins and aunts and uncles who weren’t there. I spent the afternoon reading a new favorite book, and that night we had a Christmas feast with my grandparents. I began nodding off to sleep in an armchair watching The Princess Bride with my mom and Granhannah. Christmas was different – but I learned how to love the season again, and see the small things for all that they were. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
My brother and I this year in our Christmas pajamas!
A beautiful mess of people and presents
Tonight, we celebrate with my mom’s side of the family! Things have changed for us as well, but that doesn’t make Christmas any more or any less meaningful when we celebrate as a family. That’s Christmas 2014, from me to you.