Christmas Delivery, Guaranteed

Christmas Delivery, Guaranteed

The other night, I sat before the Christmas tree for a moment of quiet before bedtime. The kids were snug in their beds,  and my husband was off letting the dog out and locking up.

I had a moment to think. And, this is what I thought. My mind scrolled through lists of things I had done that I wanted to do differently, and that I hadn’t gotten around to doing that I wanted to… But, I thought:

It’s too late.

Then, the absurdity of saying something is too late for Christmas struck me.

Surely, there are many things it’s already too late for, when it comes to little-c christmas {you know, the variety most of spend our December days bowing down to}.

But, friend, when it comes to the holy, God-conceived, glorious, Savior-variety Christmas, it is never too late. Ever. Not in December, not in January, not in June.

The real Christmas doesn’t depend on our perfect performance of a set of arbitrary tasks we’ve come to associate with little c-christmas {but that have very little to do with what happened in a stable in Bethlehem}.

Rather, capital-C Christmas depends only, beautifully, simply, on our imperfect acceptance of His perfect gift.

Christmas Crush

Christmas Crush

Almost every night so far in December, I walk past our live Christmas tree and stop.

Positioned squarely in front of our picture window, this beauty shines, within and without. Before I bend low to unplug lights, I take her in. Her soft midnight glow — the rest of the house plunged in darkness, as I extinguished our other lights just moments ago– catches my heart.

I pause, pinch off a bit of needle between my thumb and forefinger. I crush and bring it close, inhale her fir scent.

How I love that bright piney smell –pungent and sweet and spicy altogether.

In summer, I have a similar habit of crushing leaves as I walk by my tiny garage-side herb garden. I absently pluck a spike of lavender, a sliver of peppermint leaf, an oregano blossom. I roll them ‘tween fingers and breathe in their bright, crushed scent, as the pressure releases their oils, their very herb essence.

And I think, now, of how many of us feel crushed at Christmas. Crushed by hard or sad memories. Crushed by the pressures of a to-do list blossomed from November-manageable to December-insane. Crushed by our own desires to “do” Christmas better.

Avoiding the pressure seems all but impossible. Despite our best intentions, expectations overwhelm. Culture and family dictate an excess that we can’t avoid, no matter how holy our hopes.

Yet, it’s how we react to the pressure that defines our Christmas selves.

{Click to tweet:} Wouldn’t it be freeing to cease mourning the Christmas crush, but instead begin using it?

Instead of exploding {or imploding}, could we react with grace. We could look for ways to learn and course-correct. We could both ask for forgiveness and freely impart it. We could accept our limitations and imperfections. We could learn to be fragrant in the aftermath.

Just imagine what would happen if we saw pressure as a chance to allow our true essence to shine… What a sweet place our world would become.

Sustenance

Sustenance

My cheek meets cream crewel as I curl deeper into the sofa cushions. From the corner of my eye, I see soft gray outside our picture window deepening, the reflection of tree lights intensifying as the day fades.

I am so tired.

The lights glow out, into the yard, as ice pellets gather in the front bed. I surrender to the delicious temptation to close my eyes and rest {despite the Friday after-school squeals upstairs}. I wonder in this sweet, dusky moment, if I shouldn’t be using these last few minutes before sundown more productively?

A few moments ago, I opened the Advent book to see this:

With the peace and quiet of recollection may come the stark edge of fear that this doing nothing, this being, this offering of oneself for God … cannot possibly be enough.

Soon enough, I will rise. I will slide my knife through silky avocado and crisp bell pepper. I will roll limes beneath my palms before I half them, squeeze their faint green juice into olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin, and whisk.

But, now.

Now I am empty, blurry round the edges, weak. I am hollow and yet filled. But, I am not hungry.

***

What matters, says the essay’s reverend-author, is not the doing and accomplishing. What matters is relationship, the being with.

Outside my window the light turns navy blue, and with an inaudible click, the outside lights bloom into the night. Ice pellets have turned furry white, and the ground is already covered. Virgin white.

I have not eaten since last night — a “stealth” fast I call it, in a message to a friend at three o’clock this afternoon {the point at which I felt I could confess to sympathetic ears this feat of deprivation, my first}. No one else knows.

It feels odd, this saying no in order to say yes, this purposeful absence to seek His presence.

We are accustomed to excess; we expect it, seek it, embrace it. We come from a long line of doers. Doing is, well … what we do.

But, today.

Today, we can simply pray and trust in His care. We can choose to let Him carry us, past hunger and doubt and temptation. We can witness how He shows up and sustains us in ways undeniable.

We create holy ground and give birth to Christ in our time not by doing but by believing and by loving the mysterious Infinite one who stirs within.

And, ultimately, at 5 p.m. on this short nearly-winter’s day, I have discovered the beauty in doing precisely nothing, closing my eyes and releasing to Him.

***

It is time.

I heat the cast iron skillet to screaming. I shower seasoning on the fish fillets thick, their skin a delicate winter sunset’s shade of faint pink-purple. I whir golden butter and more lime juice. I fold together corn and tomato, avocado and bell pepper; add the homemade vinaigrette.

After prayers, we eat. I spear a tender slab of seared fish, glazed with melted lime butter.
It slides down smooth, and I digest it, along with this knowledge.

Something I would not have thought possible He achieved through me today.

A Birthday Party for Jesus

A Birthday Party for Jesus

Today, I welcome my friend, Kristin Hill Taylor of 152 Insights To My Soul. She’s sharing one of the special ways her family makes Christmas meaningful each year.

Each December, we sing “Happy Birthday” with a chorus of friends. We eat cake, make crafts, and hang out with other families.

But the honoree is no regular man. He’s the savior of the world.

Our birthday party for Jesus has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Kids understand birthday parties. They look forward to their own, and they like receiving invitations to other parties. I want my kids to grow up understanding that Christmas is a season full of sparkly lights, wrapped boxes, and goodwill toward men — only because of Jesus.

So, we throw a birthday party for Jesus to remind the kids who is worth celebrating – this day and every other day of the year. We collect for charity, make crafts to share with neighbors who need something to brighten their days, and hear the Christmas story after singing carols. We savor fellowship with other families who want to dwell on this holiday truth.

christmas kristin collageThe fact Jesus was born is a reminder that God is with us. He walked this earth. He experienced physical life in the same ways we do. He felt pain; he experienced hunger, thirst, exhaustion. And he gave that life up for us. So why not celebrate him — that tiny babe that changed our world with his birth?

Our tradition began with three families. And then it expanded to include more of our circle of friends. While every year is a little different, our celebration always points to Jesus. This year we’ll have our fourth annual Jesus Birthday Party the first Saturday in December.

You can plan a Jesus Birthday Party too. Here’s a checklist to get you started:

  • Pick a date in December. I want the kids to associate this birthday party with Christmas, so I find a date between Thanksgiving and Christmas and schedule the tradition. Consider what time would be best for your circle of friends. We like lunch-time parties around here, but each year has been different based on what else is going on.
  • Let your friends know as early as possible. December calendars get busy fast.
  • Choose charitable projects. We collect canned goods for our local food pantry and money to buy gifts from Compassion International’s holiday catalog. You could have a toy drive or make cards to give out at nursing homes.
  • Plan activities. Consider crafts, songs, books, and games that can incorporate the meaning of Christmas. We’ve made cards, created manger scenes out of candy, drawn pictures, made advent paper chains, and had a children’s concert.
  • Serve food. The time of the day will determine how much and what kind food you’ll offer, but you’ll want to make it fun and festive, just like a regular family birthday party.  You’ll also want to make sure you have a birthday cake for Jesus. Just don’t try to do it all yourself – ask your friends and family to help by bringing a dish.
  • Include party hats, goody bags, and other things that kids relate to birthday parties. Oriental Trading has a nice selection of “Happy birthday, Jesus” and nativity party favors and activities. Jesus was born, and that’s a life worth celebrating. Make it tangible for the kids.

Of course, there are many great ways to celebrate Jesus’ birth. This birthday party is one of several things my family does each year to focus on giving and God’s glory. Some traditions make it on our calendar every December. Other opportunities come when we’re least expecting them.

But wherever we are, we can always let our lives sing “Happy Birthday” to the one who came to save us. <<<Tweet This!

kristinhilltaylorKristin Hill Taylor lives in Murray, Ky., with her husband, Greg, and two kids – 6-year-old Cate and 4-year-old Ben. She can often be found trying to beat her husband in Words with Friends, playing games of Settlers of Catan with her best friends, listening to her daughter’s stories, reminding her son to be careful, or texting her friends. She believes in taking road trips, living in community, and documenting real life. You can keep up with her at www.kristinhilltaylor.com or follow on her Twitter.