Saturday, December 21
There is Still Time for a Silent Night
I walked into church to pick up Ella from preschool and caught the eye of a fellow momma friend whose daughter is in Ella's class.
"Phewww…" she said, "I've been running around like crazy all morning. Errands and Christmas presents and trying to get back here. Do you feel that way?"
Yes. Yes. Yes I do.
I too had been running around all morning…and then all afternoon; picking Ella up from preschool, grabbing Aubrey from my moms, bringing Aubrey home for a nap, sneaking out with Ella to go back to Ava's school for a Christmas party, and then home for a snack before gymnastics. We dropped Ava off, got Ella's hair cut, picked Ava up and and rushed everyone home for dinner
And that doesn't even include any of the running around for gifts and Christmas preparations that has been going on in-between.
I would have skipped baths all together that night, but a very creative mother painted all of the kids feet green in school earlier that day (for a Christmas craft) and so Ava's elvish feet needed a cleaning!
The kids went to bed and I took a deep breath and watched 15 minutes of some kind of holiday ridiculousness on television (I think it was SNL Christmas skits from the last 20 years).
I finally turned the television off, deciding a quiet house was better than all of the craziness on t.v. and thought for a few minutes about Christmas and what it all means and why it feels so hectic.
I've read so many essays and blog posts and articles lately on how overindulgent the season has become and I can't help but agree. EVERYTHING is so over done. The number of gifts we buy, the amount of food that we eat, the number of cookies we are supposed to make, the lights and the decorations and the shopping and the cards.
I love a lot of those things in and of themselves, but with three young children to care for and a house to take care of I've realized I need to be very deliberate about what we can and cannot do. We didn't put lights on the house. We didn't make it to any of the local theatre productions that I would have loved to go to. We didn't make the Christmas treats for the neighbors that I would have loved to make. I bought a handful of craft supplies to make ornaments…I think we got to one of the five I had planned.
Our Christmas card hasn't gone out yet (though I'm partially blaming that on the company we ordered them from because they were supposed to be here much sooner!).
As I drove out to pick Ella up from preschool on that morning I was listening to Christmas songs in the car and thought to myself, "Where is the Silent Night?"
Where is the peace? Where is the holy? What is all of this stuff all about?
I couldn't help thinking about how all of this stuff that we are supposed to do and buy and make has become a major distraction from the one and only thing we are actually supposed to be thinking about at Christmas…It has become a very big distraction from centering our minds on Christ.
Christ is where the peace is. Christ is where the holy is. Christ is where the quiet joy is.
But in order to find and focus on Christ we must be very, very intentional. We must stop the running and just sit, quietly. We must skip some cookie making and cultivate a quiet heart.
As I once heard a wise mom from my church say…We must put first things first.
What does that look like? What does that mean?
For me it's meant asking myself everyday…What is MOST important today?
Yesterday I wrote this in my journal in answer to that question:
-That my girls know I love them.
-That we talk about Jesus and the real Christmas story.
-That we laugh and find joy in these weeks.
And then I jotted down a couple of things that I thought we could do that would integrate the most important things into our lives…
-Hug the girls.
-Sit with them and read a Christmas book about the nativity.
-Watch Charlie Brown's Christmas (I love the part at the end where Pigpen recites the Christmas story!).
-Ask an intentional question around the dinner table. Something like, "If you were one going to see baby Jesus what would you bring as a gift?"
I find that if I've done these things by the end of the day I feel much more peaceful than if I've checked 12 things off of the errand list. Funny thing is, when you put first things first you are forced to let go of some of the other things. When you put the other things first you never get to the important things.
We make the choice.
But I also realized something else…There is some sense of hectic, and hurry and franticness inherent to this season that I must simply learn to accept. It's a natural part of life and of preparing for a celebration or party or event. When I paint expectations of all of these preparations happening without any hangups, or busyness I'm not painting a very realistic picture for myself.
As I thought about that I thought, Even Christ was born into some chaos. That night that he came into the world, in a stable, so very long ago, was not as quiet or the "silent night" that the song makes it out to be. Not all of it, anyway.
Mary had a baby in a barn for goodness sake.
I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I would have been such a good sport about having a baby in a barn. With animals. And hay. In the middle of a city so brimming with people that every hotel room was full.
I'm guessing that wasn't in Mary's birth plan.
Nevertheless, while the moment and place of Jesus' birth was probably not very "silent", I'm guessing there were some very beautiful, and incredibly holy moments after all was said and done. When Mary finally held her baby boy, the promised savior of the world, in her arms for the first time.
I'm sure she kissed his head, and took deep breaths and for a few moments was able to say…It IS well with my soul and ALL is good.
So, while the season may be hectic, and while there is a lot to do, and many people to see... there can be quiet, holy moments in the midst of it all.
We must be intentional about them.
In a culture that is over the top on all things Christmas (that really have little to do with Christmas), we must be intentional about bringing the holy into our lives. We must stop, and focus on what really matters.
The other night I printed out some Christmas songs and told Scott we needed to do something that reflected the true spirit of Christmas…I didn't want the whole month to go by in such a flurry that I felt I had missed the real heart of Christmas with the girls. I like to give presents, and we have an Elf of the Shelf floating around, and the local youth bureau sent Santa letters to the girls. That is all fun for sure, but it is a small part of the REAL picture.
Silent Night is actually one of the songs I've been teaching the girls this year. They also love Away in a Manger…and of course Jingle Bells.
We grabbed those songs, and two books about the Christmas nativity story, and Scott's guitar. We turned off all of the lights in the living room and laid blankets in the only clean spot on that floor (there was laundry and toys and diapers and messiness EVERYWHERE) and Scott strummed those chords and we sang our songs.
Ella had a slight temper tantrum in the middle of it all (lest you think this was a perfectly, perfect moment…they never are!) because she wanted to hold the music, but all and all it was one of the few things we've done in the last three weeks that I felt truly reflected the Christmas that I want our girls to experience.
A Christ centered Christmas.
When I think about that moment I realize, in some ways, it was similar to Mary's night in the barn. A holy moment happening in the middle of mess and chaos.
What if we started to realize that many of our holy moments might just take place in messy places? In messy living rooms, or singing in the car, or reading scripture with our children in the morning while they are smearing eggs on the table and using their pajamas as napkins.
Christ's coming into the world the way that he did did not meet ANYONE's expectations for how a savior would come to earth.
Perhaps our expectations for how picture perfect and serene and idyllic Christmas is supposed to be needs a little tweaking too.
If you feel like the month is rushing on in a flurry, and you're missing the real, peace-filled, Christ centered moments, it's not too late.
Print out a version of the Christmas scripture for your children and read it to them by the Christmas tree.
Teach them lyrics to sweet songs about baby Jesus.
Talk about Christ as the gift to our world.
Find ways to give to someone less fortunate (we are thankful to our church and preschool for providing several opportunities for these types of things in the last month.) Talk about those experiences and the importance of them.
Put first things first. I promise it will feel better than making an extra batch of cookies or accomplishing that last Pinterest craft.
The eternal impact on your kids will far outweigh the external impact of the decorations and you might just begin to feel a little bit of your own silent and holy night in the middle of your messy living room too.
p.s. I've printed a handful of our Christmas songs from this website, which also has very easy sheet music for children (I was showing the girls how to play some of the easier songs on our keyboard).
p.p.s the image above was borrowed from http://www.thatartistwoman.org/2008/12/how-to-make-nativity-silhouette-art.html which offers a tutorial on how to create a similar painting with kids.