We live a humble Christmas here. There aren't many of us and I would much rather have a trip or an experience than a gift any day. Don't get me wrong....there are plenty of material gifts given to my son and other friends and family. But Christmas morning isn't the over-the-top extravaganza I grew up with.
This year, I struggled a bit with the expectations of the holiday. I wondered if it was enough. I worried about the gifts I gave - were they nice enough? Would they be liked? Would everyone be satisfied with their bounty? After setting everything out under the tree in the wee hours of the morning, I looked at the scarcity of boxes and thought about other homes overflowing with everything they could ever need and want...and then some. I took a photo of the sweet silence you experience after it's all done - tree gently lit, presents thoughtfully placed, stillness all around. Like many of my friends, I posted the photo to my personal Facebook account wishing everyone joy and peace and love. The first comment that came was about the amount of gifts (or lack thereof). Meant to be more of a wish for them rather than an insult to me (they have 3 kids, I have one), it was still extraordinarily humbling.
Immediately, I went into a tailspin of inadequacy and panic. Putting the brakes on that mental conversation was difficult, but somehow I managed to stop myself. My son had everything on his list. Every item had been purchased by me. Every. Single. Thing. Not to mention his 24 day advent calendar - filled with little treasures and special Christmas activities for us to do together. Feeding the Birds on the Winter Solstice. Going to the county park to look at the Christmas lights. Baking cookies. Eating breakfast for dinner. Game night. Favorite movie night. Donating to those in need. I had made our Christmas as special as I could while honoring the season.
Honoring the season isn't really that hard if you think about it. This is the season of love. The season of giving - not of gifts, but of ourselves. It's the season of extraordinary faith - where we love whole-heartedly those things we can't see and believe in things we can only hope for in our hearts. It's the season of time well spent and moments of caring. It has nothing to do with the boxes, bows or bags. This is a hard lesson to remember in our hyper-materialistic, I-want-it-now culture. And it's even harder to learn when your holiday was paved with those material rewards. What I really wanted growing up was to bake cookies with my mom - not get scolded for eating them before Christmas morning. All I ever really wanted was to go sledding and decorate our gorgeous home and look at all the magical Christmas lights around the town we grew up in.... and yet, at the same time, I wanted the stuff. So I recognize the precarious balance of Christmas with a child.
This balance - this internal struggle - will always be there for me. Always. It's a balance between giving and receiving. A balance between gracious and humble. A balance between love and faith. There are so many lessons in this magical season - whether you celebrate it or not. Mostly to me, it's a great time to pause and remember the magic of what it means to give all of yourself to something through nothing but faith, hope and love.
Whatever you parts of the season you leaned into, I hope you celebrated big, enjoyed a feast, and found some light and love this holiday. Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays.