My Love-Hate Relationship with Christmas

At the risk of sounding like a heretic, I’ll admit to a bit of a love-hate relationship with this whole Christmas thing.

DG Xmas 1966

Me in 1966, enjoying my Christmas loot!

Growing up, I was like most kids – I loved Christmas and everything about it. I wrote letters to Santa. I sang Christmas carols. But best of all – I got lots of STUFF.

And every year I counted the days until Christmas would come (YAY!)….and I was sad when it was over.


There was only one little problem…..I grew up.  And that changed everything.

Christmas went from the annual time of joy and excitement, to the annual tension between joy…..and disappointment.

I started to hate Christmas:

Being the only “single” in gatherings where everyone else was married with kids.  Stressing over what to buy everyone, having no idea what they wanted.  Blowing the budget.  Way too much to do, feeling pressured to meet everyone’s expectations.  Giving gifts because “that’s what we do.”  Giving gifts people might enjoy, but didn’t necessarily need.

And so every year I counted the days until Christmas would be OVER, and I was relieved when it was past!

In retrospect, I think God was trying to get my attention. Forcing me to cut things from MY Christmas, so I could focus on HIS Christmas.

Fast forward to today, and here’s what our Christmas looks like now.  The Hubbie and I don’t exchange gifts anymore. We’ve reduced gifts that people don’t need – the only “real” gift we buy is for Mom (after all, she’s Mom!)  Christmas decorations? Virtually non-existent…although we do put up our outside Christmas lights, so the neighbors don’t think we’ve totally given up on Jesus….

And as we’ve kept cutting, Christmas is taking on new meaning. Yes, life is still busy.  But finally I have time to think about the real Christmas.  About the gift of Jesus coming as a baby – mind-blowing, really, that the God of the universe would come to earth as a baby, fully relating with me and to me as a human.

Grandma Sweatshirt

Really, who would buy this shirt, except for the message???

But it wasn’t just His birth – Christmas was the start of an entire chain of events.

Kind of like getting a sweatshirt for Christmas that says “I’m Going to be a Grandmother!”  The real gift isn’t the sweatshirt.  No, the gift is the promise of what’s coming later – the grandchild.  In the same way, Jesus came at Christmas, but the real gift was that He would ultimately die and be resurrected, making my salvation possible.  That’s the gift I most desperately needed.  That’s why the angel announced “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a SAVIOR has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

And so I finally realized, the true spirit of Christmas is about meeting needs – real needs. God met MY biggest need.  So now I celebrate Christmas by meeting the real needs of others.

And you know what? It’s not hard to figure out what to give folks in desperate need. No more wracking my brain to figure out “what to get the person who has everything.”  Because when someone’s in desperate need, often their needs are staring me in the face. Spiritual needs, physical needs, emotional needs.

In that spirit, this year for Christmas, we’re giving the gift of meeting basic needs for some new moms living in poverty.  As part of that, they’ll also be hearing about the gift of Jesus.  I’m not telling you this to look good.  Anything we could give would be miniscule – a mere token – compared to the gift Jesus gave us. But if we can meet a need, in honor and thanks for what Jesus did for us, that’s a great Christmas.

Maybe you’ve experienced that same Christmas joy I’m still learning about…..or maybe this is new for you.  Not sure what to give?  It’s easy really. Just look around you – there are people in need everywhere.  Still not sure?  You can start here.

I’d like to tell you all the stress of Christmas is over.  I’m not totally there – but I’ve come a long way.  And as Christmas has changed for me, I’ve discovered I really enjoy Christmas again.

In fact, I love it.

How about you – are you in a “Love Christmas” or a “Hate Christmas” season of life?  What helps you focus on the real gift of Jesus?  I’d love to hear your comments!

How Do You Rate?

It’s that time of year again!   No, not Christmas and New Years – I’m referring to that OTHER “special” time of year.

You know, that time where we endure employee performance reviews with our bosses – telling them what we’ve done, then hearing how the boss sees us.  I admit it – this is one of the more uncomfortable times of year for me – hoping my boss will appreciate how hard I’ve worked, but fearing he didn’t notice or understand what I did.

I’ve lived through this performance review cycle 31 times in my career. After 31 times, it’s still uncomfortableBecause let’s face it, deep down we all want to be viewed as “better than most,” and not just “average.”  

In some watodolistys, my Christian life is like this, always wondering how “the Big Boss” views me.  I want God to be so impressed with me that He comments to the angels about my amazing performance.  And since God built me to be task-oriented, I run my personal life with “to-do” lists trying to achieve great results for God.  I love checking items off my list.  Did your devotions?  Check!  And in my imagination, a little voice whispers “God is SO pleased with you for spending time with Him.”

So you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that in addition to my “to-do” lists, I also set annual goals for my life.  Please don’t laugh at me – remember, God made me like this.  It helps me get things done. Besides, having annual goals is WAY better than New Years resolutions.  Because I can work on goals all year, and not just throw everything away on January 2nd when I choose cheesecake over my New Year’s diet.

Which I probably will……

As I get to the end of this year and reflect on the state of my personal 2013 goals, I’m afraid they aren’t in great shape. My personal performance rating would be “Didn’t Meet Expectations.”  I didn’t lose 15 pounds.  I didn’t de-clutter the house.  I didn’t spend as much time with friends as I intended.  I’ve been focused on just surviving in 2013, and it shows.

In spite all that I didn’t do, I was able to spend time with Jesus most days.  And you know what?  That made all the difference.  Because Jesus is not like an earthly boss….no, He is WAY better!

Bosses says “Get things done.”

Jesus says “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind.”

Bosses says “Live by your accomplishments.”

Jesus says “Live by faith.”

Bosses say “Figure it out!”

Jesus says “Follow me, and trust me.”

Bosses say “You can be replaced.”

Jesus says “You’re precious to me – I gave my life for you.”

Bosses say “You’ll be held accountable.”

Jesus says “Your faith in me saves you from your sins, I see you as righteous.”

And that’s when I realize….being rated as “righteous” by the God of the universe….well, I can’t think of a better rating than that!  So why am I working so hard to impress Jesus, when all He asks is that I love Him, trust Him, place my faith in Him?

And as I hold on tightly to Jesus each day and trust Him, He shows me things I can do for Him that day, that don’t necessarily “count” toward my goals – but that share Christ’s love with others.  And you know what?   I think Jesus cares a lot more about my following His lead and sharing His love with others each day than about my annual goals.  I just need to remind my task-oriented brain of that.

How about you – do you live off a “to-do” list?  Are you constantly checking to see if you’ve done enough to please God?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…..