Today my boys get out of school for Christmas break so we'll be in full celebration (i.e. survival) mode for the next couple weeks until we return to our regular routine. Christmas can bring a lot of stress to families like mine, so this year I'm focusing on having a Mary Christmas—one that's focused on trusting in His plan, turning the focus to Him, and treasuring the memories.
Trust in His Plan
The angel Gabriel visited Mary and said she would give birth to a child: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:32-33
She had some questions, but in Luke 1:38 she responded, “I am a servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” That faith was put into action when the time came for her to give birth.
First-time moms usually have a detailed birth plan. Mine was drive to the hospital, get the epidural, and meet David. I went into labor during Monday night football and let everyone get some sleep while I waited for the contractions to come closer together. At 2:00 am I woke up my husband Lee and told him it was time.
We got in the car to drive the 30 minutes to the hospital and saw a sign that said the bridge was out. We had just driven that way, so we thought we would be ok. But sure enough, when we got close, the bridge was out. We had to turn around and find the detour, and these were in the days before Siri told you exactly where to turn.
Riding on a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem with so many other people packed into the city they couldn’t find a place to stay, except for what was probably a cave where the animals lived. We want sterile environments; Mary had a manger, a feeding trough.
Just like that first Christmas, this Christmas isn’t going to go as planned. It just isn’t. Cookies will burn. You’ll come home and find the dog in a pile of chewed through wrapping paper next to the tree. Your toddler will want to help decorate and mess up your plan. Your teenage will still have one ear bud in when you’re reading from Luke 2 as a family.
But God’s plan for your Christmas will happen. Nothing can stop that. What was most important on that first night—love coming down and wrapping himself in flesh—will be most important for your family as well. Focus on that one thing, and everything else will fall into place (or, at least give you some good stories to talk about into 2018).
Turn the Focus to Him
When David was born, he was first grandchild on either side and the grandparents had been pacing in the waiting room for most of the day. When they could finally come in, they walked right past me in the bed and walked toward David. My mom did pause mid-step and turn to come to me, probably because she figured out there would be a line to hold David anyway.
Jesus had visitors soon after his birth too when the shepherds came to visit. The attention wasn’t on Mary and Joseph. It wasn’t on the swaddling cloths or the manger bed. It was on the one who was born, the “Savior who is Christ the Lord.” The cloths? The manger? Those were signs of what was truly important, they pointed to Christ.
You may love decorating for Christmas. Most years we have been Christmas minimalists because we’ve traveled for Christmas. One December we moved into our new house in PA and learned my grandmother had passed away back in Oklahoma. We traveled for the funeral and came back home to all those boxes. I didn’t have the energy or the desire to “do Christmas.” But friends from church showed up one day with a live tree and enough ornaments to fill it up. The real gift wasn’t the tree. It was their love and care for us during a hard season. It was the ability to focus on ministering to our church family and not worrying that the boys were missing out on making memories around the tree on Christmas morning.
When the Christmas season gets busy, we can focus on everything but Christ. But learning from Mary’s example shows us the true goal of every decoration, gift, and meal—to celebrate His coming! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make everything perfect. Even your imperfections point us to the perfect Savoir.
Treasure the Memories
Do you remember what Christmas was like when we were children? The awe. The reverence. The special clothes and the perfect gift. We all have memories from Christmases past that bring us joy.
You know a big reason you have sweet memories of those Christmases? Because your mom or maybe another relative worked so hard to make them happen. She may have gone without, stayed up late, or worked extra hours to make sure you had a merry Christmas.
Now I’m on the other side of Christmas. The doing side. When the boys were young, we didn’t buy them gifts. We couldn’t afford gifts for them and all the extended family members we were expected to buy for. When I told my mom how sad that made me, she reminded me they wouldn’t remember who the gifts came from. She even told me when my sisters and I were young and would travel to my grandparents’ for Christmas, some years the cash my grandparents gave as gifts to the adults paid for our gas to get back home. I of course was oblivious to that. I was too busy playing with my new Barbie or reading the latest Babysitters Club book.
“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Think about what she treasured up. Painful childbirth. The smell of the animals. The rough hay that was her bed. A husband who held her hand. Shepherds who came and reminded Mary her son was God’s son, her Savoir.
She treasured the good and bad. The hard and easy. Loud and chaotic. Painful and comforting. She pondered them. She carried them. When Luke, the author of this gospel, wrote down the story of Christ’s birth, he was able to do so because Mary remembered. She pondered the events and the details. And she carried them with her as her son grew, turned water into wine, healed the sick, forgave the sinners, and eventually hung on the cross. She could draw comfort from remembering God’s purpose from the beginning, when Gabriel first visited her.
What do you want your family to remember about this Christmas? You probably don’t want them to feel the stress, anger, or disappointment. You don’t want them to remember you talking about the extra weight you’re putting on or the money you wasted on a gift they tossed aside.
This season, focus on creating the feelings you want your family to remember. Treasure the memories you’re making. Ponder it all in your heart like Mary. Ask God to help you focus on what’s most important.