Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reflections on Christmas

It has been quite a while since I posted on this blog. Homeschooling has been pretty routine, so that didn't seem like a noteworthy topic. I have discovered that my allowing for only one week off school for the Christmas holiday was not very realistic. First of all, I need time to prepare for Christmas even if we keep it simple like we did this year. Secondly, The Pillowfight Fairy can't concentrate on school work if she hasn't had a chance to play with all of her new toys yet. So we are taking a second week off to help satisfy the kids and to allow the parents some time to get life back to normal.

For those of you who follow my husband's blog, you know that we received some unwelcome news that our expected baby is not the healthy baby we had hoped for. She has many defects that will probably take her life fairly early. This is not the kind of news one likes to get at anytime, let alone Christmas. But after the initial shock and sadness, we are finding ourselves managing fairly well.

Christmas is usually one of our most stress-filled holidays. I have to consciously limit my Christmas activities or I make myself sick. Added to that, we frequently have one or more of us involved with a Christmas program of some kind (practices are not easy to juggle when there are young children). Then there has been a death or other family struggle/tragedy in most of the holiday seasons for the last 15 years. On top of that is the "who do we spend which holiday with" family politics. Don't get me wrong. I love my family and I am quite fond of my in-laws. I like spending time with them. But it is not easy to pack up the family for a visit on particular pre-determined date, especially in winter. And somehow, kids are never on the same schedule as the adults, which adds to the general stress. Then there is the fact that all three of our kids have birthdays plus Christmas in the space of about three months and we are inundated with new stuff, requiring sorting, storing, rearranging, and the discarding of old things.

With all of that, somehow this has managed to be one of our better Christmases in years. The family Christmas celebration was just across town for us this year, so we didn't have the travel stress. None of us were in a Christmas program this year, though we did attend a couple as audience members. We did keep our Christmas simple. I didn't have a lot of time to prepare ahead, being busy teaching up until the week of Christmas. Then I had extra doctor's appointments and big issues on my mind regarding our baby. Somehow, anything other than simple would have been way out of place this year. I did have a cold, but it was going away by Christmas instead of just coming on.

All this makes me reflect on what would be an ideal Christmas in my opinion. My ideal Christmas would involve:

  • Spending time with immediate family doing simple things that we don't usually get to do.
  • Not being concerned about other people's expectations of gift giving and simply giving gifts as prompted by our hearts and perhaps doing more gift giving to those in need rather than people who have everything they need.
  • Remembering that Jesus is what the celebration is all about.
  • Treating the people around us better than we usually treat them and perhaps better than they deserve.
  • Move the focus off of what we want, and put the focus on what God wants and what others need.
  • Maybe we could sing and dance more, too.
  • As much as we treasure particular things, we should never let them stand in the way of the lives and relationships we need to treasure more.
Somehow when issues of life and death are on your mind, most of the stuff that goes on around Christmas is so trivial it is ridiculous. But without those big life and death issues weighing on the mind, those trivial things start to take over. Although the unpleasant things of life are in fact unpleasant, they do help us keep in perspective what is important.

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