loving (this) Christmas

I have always loved Christmas.

My parents created Christmas traditions full of wonder and surprise. Christmas didn’t arrive at our home until Christmas Day… because Santa brought everything! After the little ones set out Santa’s cookies and milk and went off to bed, Mom and Dad began the gargantuan, all-night task of filling the stockings, setting up and decorating the tree, assembling the toys, and placing the mountains of gifts in individual piles. I don’t know how my parents ever functioned the next morning, but I know steaming cups of coffee were essential as the children tore into the over-stuffed stockings on Mom and Dad’s bed. When we finished opening our stockings, and Mom and Dad were semi-awake, we anxiously crept down the hall to wait expectantly at the closed living room door. After an eternity passed, Dad slowly opened the door to the magical world of Christmas! I can still feel the awe of that first glimpse of the huge, glittering tree and the enormous collection of bright, shiny gifts that waited for us.

With my own family, Christmas came with greenery and berries wrapping staircases and pillars, outdoor lights on the awnings and windows, and decorations in every corner of the house… entertaining, rice bags to keep out the cold, cut-out sugar cookies decorated in varying styles of creativity as young children grew to teenagers, and traditional cinnamon rolls eaten leisurely on Christmas morning while we opened stockings and gifts one-by-one. We also had a big tree – but we sanely began a new routine of setting it up with everyone’s help weeks ahead of time. Since we lived in Mexico, we sometimes added Christmas Eve dinner, hot chocolate, and late-night piñatas. Christmas Eve candlelight service and a collection of nativity scenes helped remind us of Jesus in the midst of the craziness.

This year, we live in Orlando, Florida in a small apartment. Most of my decorations were given away in the move; the days-long decorating tradition lasted only a few hours. It is warm and sunny outside; snowmen and frosted trees seem strangely out-of-place. There are no children at home, no stockings to fill, no piles of gifts under the tree, little motivation to bake sugar cookies that we shouldn’t eat.

So I wonder… what is Christmas really? Is it children’s delighted wonder at glitter and toys? Is it pretty decorations, gift shopping, and favorite foods? Is it special family time, traditions, or church services? All are good, and through the years I have enjoyed it all… but none are the true essence of CHRISTmas. This year as so much of Christmas normal has been stripped away, I realize that I have actually received a wonderful gift — the opportunity to focus intentionally on Christ: His story, His life, His example. There are so few distractions, so there is more peace and more time to learn from Him. I know we will attend parties and events, shop some, and bake (to give away :)), but I am especially excited to spend quiet, not rushed, special times with Jesus this year. I think this may become the kind of Christmas that I love most.

What do you love about Christmas? 

21 thoughts on “loving (this) Christmas

  1. Terry, what you wrote touched me — in many ways, I feel like I’ve never recaptured the wonder I felt for Christmas as a child, although I’m coming to understand Emmanuel, God with us, more fully. We’re not doing any decorations or presents this year in Orlando… too much to pack up and move, I guess. It’s fun to celebrate with new friends, but the wonder seems to be missing.

    Thank you for the encouragement to press into Jesus.


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  4. Just this morning, a friend asked me what our traditions are, how we usually spend Christmas. I ended up relating our 50 year history, and came up with this: evolving, changing. Except for several years in Puerto Rico, and a period in California, and then our years here, each year was something different.
    Some things are the same like tree decorations and Nativity scenes, but I’m even pruning those somewhat. And the Nativity scenes only started after 25 plus years of marriage. Each year we ask our daughter what the plans are, and each year is a little different variation. This year my mom is not coming, so first time since 1989, we have no parents with us and we are free to plan something different. We could even travel somewhere,
    Still have some projects ahead, mostly baking for gifts to neighbors and friends, some cleaning and Christmas cards to get out to ministry partners, but enjoying the slower pace.
    So what’s important is Advent readings, time with Dean and some quietness with The Lord. Enjoyed reading tour thoughts.


    • Jan, you encourage me with your willing heart to flex and adapt to whatever the Lord has for you each year – international customs, family changes… and now a slower, more personal pace. I hope you have a wonderfully blessed and special CHRISTmas this year.


  5. I so struggle with the “tradition” thing. I think it’s good for families, yet because we have moved so much, it’s one thing I miss (and feel guilty about to some degree). This year I’m especially struggling even with the decorations, or more accurately, the lack thereof, as all our stuff is in Mexico. We can’t nor would we/could we want to spend big $$ on all sort of decorations since we are only here for one holiday season, but the fact that my daughter is still with us and all our boys will be together on Christmas eve, I think I should have something. Yet I come back to the truth that you’ve stated so well: the gift of Christ and the beauty of His birth, life, and death. What a holiday atmosphere in which to rejoice!


    • May God give you peace and discernment for those emotions and decisions…May He give you creative – inexpensive – ideas for how to focus on HIm and enjoy the holiday where and how you are doing life this year…


  6. Thank you so much for this blog !!! Christmases are a lot different now that both our kids have Christmas at their own homes and that is understandable. We are blessed to be invited to visit them during this wonderful time of the year. It is a lot easier on me and I get all the joy of a Christ centered Christmas with at least one of my kids ! Thank you again for this blog ! Merry
    CHRISTmas !


  7. That is crazy that your folks did ALL of that on Christmas Eve!

    I am thankful that now with my folks both gone, the four sisters and their families all are together. Since the sisters and all kids are now much older, we don’t exchange gifts with each one but have a fun gift card exchange! Everyone buys a $25 gift card, wraps it in some fun way and we choose numbers to begin the gift giving!

    We don’t really need much so the only who gets spoiled is the great nephew! 🙂

    And I will be back in Orlando and at Disney World on Christmas wish you were going to be in town!


    Judy Kirkpatrick AIA Global Leadership Council, NAME & PACT AIA Global Strategies Leader 651 Taylor Dr Xenia, OH 45385 C) 513-235-5297 http://www.beyondtheultimate.com


    • I like the gift-card exchange idea – that could certainly simplify the process! I sure wish we were going to be here when you come through… keep us posted on your next trip! Love to you!


  8. So agree, Terry. Sad that my kids don’t usually come home for Christmas anymore, but totally understanding want to do it in their own homes. It surely makes for a saner, easier holiday–and more time to reflect on our Savior. I am loving Advent already.


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