This year, Christmas will look different. And you know what? That’s ok.
My husband is currently out of work. His company downsized and gave him a severance to leave. Since then he’s been hunting - but not finding.
So here’s Christmas but no work. And you know what? That’s ok.
This morning my eight year old asked me if we could hide their presents around the house instead of “just piling them under the tree.” Just piling? You mean the pile I dread being so small - she just wants to forget it all together and hide it around the house? Really?
The other day, the four year old asked if we could have a “candle Christmas.” When I asked what that was, she said it was playing dark hide and seek “with candles for Christmas.”
Then the six year old asked “Momma, do we have ornaments?” and I thought of the coordinated set in the attic - did I get rid of it? I realized that if I did, I had never replaced them. Interrupting my thoughts she asked, “Do you have candy canes, Momma? We can put them on the tree.” She was not picturing an Instagram-worthy tree; crafty cardboard, and candy canes would be just fine for her.
And as I gradually released my hold on how big that gift pile should be, or how exactly Christmas should look, I realized that the ones I am doing it all for simply don’t care. The gifts are secondary. The decor is tertiary or completely imperceptible. At this point in their lives, they just want us. Our attention and tickles and presence and laughter over sneaking around candles for a game of hide and seek.
I didn’t think I’d be sharing about this. It’s tender and stressful and takes up so much space in my soul. But I think there are other mommas out there who are in the same place. The kids are little and the money is tight; or the grandkids are all coming and they won’t each be opening a gift. And maybe you have in your head the PILES your parents had for you as a kid (or didn’t!) and maybe all the marketing out there just makes you feel like a failure. But you aren’t.
Because the gift that God gave wasn’t glittery or matching anything. He didn’t coordinate at all with what we thought the Savior of the World should look like. He was a babe in a crumbly manger in a muddy stall. A tiny human that was God Himself - with us in all our need. Immanuel. And that’s what your kids and grandkids want too. You with them, with crumbly cookies and the muddy floors they leave as they stumble in from playing in the snow.
Flour, sugar, candy canes, and cardboard are cheap. And they’ll do. But your contentment is not cheap - it costs the laying down of your expectations and the ignoring of the glitter and IG marketing.
And your presence is not cheap - it costs the focus and care and gentleness you draw from Jesus every minute to be there and not fearing the future. But they are precious gifts. And perfectly what those little kids need.
If you’re just starting out or you’ve hit hard times; if this Christmas is looking a bit meager, that’s ok. The first one was the meagerest of all. He emptied Himself of all but love and came and gave - not a pile of sparkly gifts - but Himself.
And really, like my kids, we are far more grateful for Him - for Him coming to be with us - than His many, many gifts.
This year our Christmas will look different. And you know what? That is for the best.
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:23).
What are some quality time traditions your family loves? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.