I am sitting peacefully in my in-laws’ living room now, but a week ago, I was all lit up in Christmas stress. I felt guilty about the stress, for I love Christmas. I tease that I was raised by elves. I start listening to Christmas music as soon as the heat of summer lifts. I adore the decorations, the concerts and plays, the gatherings, the surprises well thought out and wrapped up for family, friends, my children’s teachers, the needy, the postman. . . . But, sometimes, there is too much to buy and wrap and bake and see in a matter of days. I wish I could prolong the month, enjoy each moment, but sometimes the coming moments pile into a seemingly insurmountable heap. Fear sets in. Will I be able to get all of this done? What if I don’t find a gift for him or her? What if I don’t pull off Christmas this year?!!!
As the pressure was rising within me, I sat down and read Luke 2. God showed me something I’d never noticed before. Christmas has always been stressful . . . and wonderful! Mary and Joseph, forced to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem because of the census, must have felt like nothing was going according to their plans. (Money stress! Travel stress! Pregnancy stress!) Knowing Mary carried God’s son within her, surely they must have had a birth plan. Certainly their dreams for Jesus’s birth didn’t include a stable. As they searched in vain for a room in an inn, as Mary’s contractions intensified, as the weary donkey trudged on beneath her weight, stress levels must have surged.
Yet it wasn’t Mary’s and Joseph’s job to bring Christmas. (And it is not mine.) Perhaps Joseph felt like a failure as he carried Mary into the stable. He couldn’t have known that a multitude of angels was about to appear to shepherds nearby. He hadn’t yet seen the light of the star.
Can you imagine putting out a “hotel room scene” rather than a manger scene each year? God knew his Son, the servant king, needed a humble birth surrounded by the glowing eyes of gentle animals and the admiration of lowly shepherds. God’s birth plan was more unique and more magical than anything Mary and Joseph could have imagined.
As you wrap and cook and plan, and the stress begins to bubble and boil, don’t feel guilty. When we feel the pressure to make Christmas happen a certain way, stress is normal. When we travel afar to the towns of our fathers, stress is normal. But whisper to yourself the truth: God brings Christmas. He brings Christmas where and how we least expect it. Breathe deeply. Gather the presents. Pray. Don’t worry if you can’t get the cookies baked this year. Nothing need be “perfect.” Just do the best you can and have faith. Christmas will find you!