Progress has been made and our tree is finally completely down and packed away. I will admit that it was my husband's doing and not my own. He seized the opportunity Sunday afternoon while I took a long winter's nap. But there are a few traces of the Christmas season that still linger...garland and stocking holders on the fireplace and the Nativity set on my piano. The stocking holders are snowmen and they certainly fit in with the ongoing winter season- not counting the two days of spring this week- and the garland kind of blends in without looking Christmasy. In fact one year the garland remained proudly displayed on it's mantle until summertime...embarrassing, but true! As for the Nativity set? It was one of the last decorations to make an appearance in the days before Christmas and I am in no hurry to take it down as it represents a life lesson for me.
Christmas has been my favorite time of year for as long as I can remember, mostly due to fond memories of the season from my childhood. The house was always decorated festively, cookies were in abundance, candles and the fireplace were burning and the sounds of music filled the air. In fact, a few months ago, my daughter discovered the old albums we would listen to through the holidays- Elvis, The Beach Boys, Snoopy's Christmas and Bing Crosby to name a few. My brother hooked her up with an old record player and we were able to bring those memories back to life. Sarah was so excited and decided we would get the albums out when we decorated the tree. Sadly, the record player stopped working when the day came and so those memories went back to the file box in my mind.
My expectations for Christmas were high this year (well, technically last year, but for the sake of this blog, it shall remain this year). The season had come and gone in a blur the past 5 years because of juggling an almost full- time job, several part-time jobs and being a wife, mom and chauffeur. But this year, I was without the most time-consuming job and was determined to enjoy the season once again and make it an extra special time for our kids. I wanted them to have the same experience I had growing up.
Well...two weeks into December we finally got around to putting the tree up and that was it for decorations for much of the season. Life was just as busy as ever and time was flying by without the cookies and music and softly glowing fires. Time was short for shopping, as were funds since I no longer had the steady income of a nursing job. Once I did find time to head to the stores, everything was picked over and I didn't feel much like buying presents in the light of our nation mourning the loss of beautiful children and teachers. Tears flowed easily and my dreams of the "perfect" Christmas were crushed.
Christmas break came upon us and it became now or never for adding any extra touches with decorations. I took advantage of an early school dismissal and extra time at home to hang the garland and stockings. My youngest son offered to set up the Nativity set for me. And so began the lessons for the day. I relinquished my need to have the figures set up "just right" and allowed my child to create a scene that would change my day and my perspective.
As he finished setting things up, he noticed I had another angel on my piano, in the form of a music box. He then proceeded to remove an angel off it's post over-looking the manger scene and replace it with the music box angel. As he turned it on, the tune of "Amazing Grace" filled the air, a smile covered his face and he said "that's how it should be". How appropriate that this angel should be there singing of amazing grace over the manger scene of our Savior! Tears danced on my cheeks as I looked in wonder at how much this little boy "gets it". I needed to let go of trying to "make" Christmas perfect with shopping and baking and decorating and music. I was reminded that it's about a gift that has been given so freely to each of us. I'm sure as Mary and Joseph anticipated the birth of their son, they never expected to be far away from family and friends or to be away from the comforts of home. Yet, they found themselves alone and in a dark, smelly and dirty cave. There was nothing perfect about this but the Baby himself.
And so, the angel still is perched on her post and my heart is reminded each time I pass by of her song and there's no rush to put it away because the story didn't end at the manger. This baby came into our world as a baby but grew into a man and became our Redeemer in giving the ultimate gift of His life as a sacrifice of love and covering of grace for each of us. He is still very much alive and waiting for our hearts to prepare room for Him to dwell. And my heart joins with heaven and nature in singing of His greatness!
So...what about next Christmas? I'll still decorate and try to find time to bake some cookies and hopefully even find time to relax with my family around the fireplace. I'll treasure the memories of childhood and hope that as a family we're making memories that our kids will cherish some day, too. But I'm trusting that the lessons from a little boy and a Nativity set remind me to expect only the joy that comes from celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.