I watched Father Dennis’s homily on Facebook this weekend. It was so timely for me, as he talked about the difference between making Christmas happen versus letting Christmas happen. He talked about his mother, who had nine kids, many born right around Christmas, always being so pregnant and yet working so hard to make Christmas wonderful.
In other years, and in other times, I could nod along at the idea that I shouldn’t overdo the preparations for Christmas, that it’s just about being together, not about the gifts or the food, really. That my job was to create space and time for family connection, not to win design or baking contests, or to buy ALL. THE. GIFTS.
I’d have been nodding along but still baking and cleaning and buying and wrapping until the wee hours. This year, the pressure to make all the joy happen for my kids is exponentially higher. We’re not seeing family or friends – no roughhousing with 15 beloved cousins or going to the waterpark or staying up all night on New Year’s with friends. Nana and Grandpa won’t be with us on Christmas morning, and we still aren’t holding our baby niece/cousin. When we made plans to cut down a Christmas tree, my son protested: “We’re not doing any of the fun things. Do NOT make me do this.” Poor buddy.
Father Dennis’s homily this week came to me as I was making a grocery list trying to anticipate all the food that could bring my kids joy and buy it so that maybe they wouldn’t notice all the things they’re missing. In my anxiety I let that drive to make Christmas happen take over.
Father Dennis called on us to remember that Christmas is coming whether we’re ready or not. Christmas is coming because God has willed it to happen. All we need to do these last few days is prepare a place in our hearts to let the Christ child in.
It’s a really helpful reframing of my mindset. I fear that if I don’t get things just right my kids will be sad, and they’ve already been so sad so many times. In my panic to anticipate and fix all their heartache and disappointment, I was removing myself from them. And possibly taking away their right to feel sad and disappointed.
This week I’m going to get my work done so I can focus on my family from Wednesday on. We’re going to bake when it’s fun and watch movies when we’re lazy. Mike and I are going to let our kids feel sad when they feel sad, and not make their disappointment about us. I’m going to notice when I feel sad, honor that, and ask God to help me heal it so I can give out love rather than pain.
If we didn’t have clocks, life would not be as efficient and would perhaps be impossible in our society. Yet life without clocks might be more healthy. This is not going to happen,
but I believe there is something for us to learn here.
Many of us need to slow down. We run until we are frazzled. We are so busy we don’t take
the time for quiet prayer. We are doing so much, that we forget the people most important
Advent is an opportunity for us to reflect on our busyness and ask what is important in
Smile, God Loves You.
This letter was first shared December 22, 1996 and was published in Dear People Whom God Loves, (c) 1999