To the cashier who checked me out while I busily stood there and never spoke, how rude of me.
To the kid checking receipts at the door who asked me how I was and I barely responded, I apologize.
To the woman ringing the bell at the red kettle and singing your heart out in baritone versions of Christmas carols, thank you.
It's coming on Christmas and I'm usually the one spreading the cheer. Yet I found myself dreadfully overwhelmed, exhausted and truthfully just flat-out stressed! All the good intentions, cards I meant to send, gifts I intended to buy, crafts I'd hoped to make, goodies I wanted to bake and everything that remains undone seemed to be looming over me. It's not like it snuck up on me. It's always December 25. In fact, Christmas keeps coming earlier and earlier based upon when the stores put things out. So why am I not prepared? Why were feelings of weariness and stress taking over where I should be joyful and cheerful and celebrating?
It took a humbling trip to Wal-mart and the wise words of my husband to help set me straight. All of a sudden I realized I was the grinch. I was the one stealing the joy out of Christmas. During the one time of year when the rest of the world seems to jump on the bandwagon of cheer, I was now the one throwing a sopping wet blanket on everyone's Christmas spirit.
Thankfully it didn't take the ghost of Christmas past, present or future to set me straight. Rather it was the Christmas carol of a joyful soul as I wearily left the store, pushing my cart in the rain, trying to find room for all the bags amidst the packages and work supplies that were already crowding the vehicle. While I sulked and huffed and had my own little pity party, the echo of Christmas carols carried through the parking lot, with an off-rhythm bell chiming in. By the time I got home, I still managed to complain, but patiently and lovingly I was reminded this wasn't what Christmas was about. He was right. I was missing it. Big time.
Christmas isn't about all the stuff I meant to buy, do, send, package, wrap, give or any other good intention. It doesn't have to be on December 25th when I send a card to family to tell them how meaningful they are. There's no reason December 25th is the only day of the year when I can prepare homemade goodies for friends. It's not the Christmas tree beckoning more gifts to be neatly wrapped and placed under it.
Christmas is just the beginning. The manger isn't where it ends. We celebrate the birth of our Savior but the purpose in His coming was to fulfill the cross. To bring salvation to us. He came as a babe and occupied a manger, but He left an empty tomb before it was all said and done.
There's still a million things on my "to do" list... And you know what?? Many of them may remain "unchecked." But it doesn't take Christmas cards, perfectly wrapped packages, carefully selected presents or handcrafted goodies to bring about the celebration of Christmas. The true celebration of Christ's birth and the joy it brings comes from the heart of Christmas - my heart's willingness to rejoice instead of stress. My heart's decision to celebrate Christ rather than worry about what I have left to do. My heart's decision to honor Him as Lord rather than elevate all the other non-priorities that can consume me. My heart's decision to let the celebration of the season be about the simple way in which He came and not the pomp and circumstance I'm trying to make it. My heart's decision is to celebrate Christ.
Whatever remains undone on your list, leave it. Let's choose to celebrate Christ.