Thursday, December 24, 2009

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

This Christmas season has been a bit stressful for me. I guess two-month-old baby + husband who works long hours + co-directing a ticketed concert for Cantico + directing/writing ward choir Christmas program = lots of stress and craziness. Two years ago at Christmas I was in a similar situation-- Jackson was only a month old. Although I had one less choir to deal with, I directed the ward choir program when he was only 3 weeks old. Another holiday season packed with excitement....

When you have a new baby during the holidays it seems like you end up sorting your traditions into "necessary" and "maybe next year" piles. There are a lot of smaller things that go by the wayside and the end result is usually not exactly "Martha Stewart." This Christmas has been no different. While Adelyn is two months old, I still feel like I'm decorating with one hand tied behind my back. (Oh wait, that's because I am. Well at least with one hand tied up holding baby.) So I publicly apologize that this year we are not making treat plates for our neighbors, decorating gingerbread houses, mailing Christmas cards or putting up lights on the outside of our house (although I still like to think that maybe Santa will do the lights when he comes... it just looks so sad and un-festive).

I have to admit that I spent the first part of December feeling a bit grinch-y. I had a lot going on and my main focus was survival. So many Christmas traditions seemed like just one more thing that creates extra work or an excuse for excess sugar. And who invented candy canes anyway? Do they have any idea what a sticky mess they make when given to a two-year-old? And why do my two older kids think that just because something is labeled "Christmas special" on TV, it means that they get to watch it regardless of how much TV they've already watched that day? (Oh yeah, they think that because mom is exhausted and has too much to do so she caves in.) Don't get me wrong, I'm not a scrooge at heart. I LOVED the Christmas season as a kid and I remember it being magical. I want it to be magical for my kids too, but I have come to the shocking realization that I am not... well, magic.

My mother had six children, so I'm sure that not every Christmas was picture-perfect at our house. If I think back, I think there were more years that our outside lights didn't make it up than years that they did. And we had a way of cherry-picking traditions at times (i.e. sometimes Christmas Eve was a festive dinner, sometimes it was pizza delivery). But I still remember loving it: they were always happy times, filled with love and warm memories.

Now, with the end of my slew of Christmas concerts, the Christmas season has officially kicked off for me. Things have become more calm and I have had more time to plan our family festivities. I started wrapping presents and checking items off my to-do list. My family is here (hooray!! hooray!!) and Dave has some days off work. (Honestly, I think whenever Dave has time off work that makes it a holiday for me.) But I still felt this yearning for that "Christmas magic" that I remember feeling as a child.

Yesterday I was driving in the car and I turned on the CD player. I felt irritated as I realized that once again I forgot to bring a Christmas CD out to the car. (How lame is it that I don't even have time to bring out a Christmas CD so I can feel festive while I drive around and run errands?) So I listened to the BYU Women's Chorus CD that was in. The song "Wondrous Love" came on:

"What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down beneath God's righteous frown, Christ laid aside his crown for my soul."

It just struck me that this song is the essence of Christmas: Christ laid aside his crown- he came down from heaven, leaving his position as the Son of God, to become a helpless human baby- for my soul. I felt what an amazing gift it is-- that because of Christ we can return to God, in spite of all of our faults and human failings. I truly feel grateful for Christ and his willingness to lay aside his crown for me.

I'll be honest-- the worldly, materialistic part of me still wishes for a picture-perfect Christmas, filled with beautiful decorations, festive parties, handmade greeting cards and holiday cheer. A new baby definitely makes it more difficult to keep up with the "Martha Stewart" parts of Christmas. I just have to resign myself to the fact that, at least this year, our decorations, cards and other things will have to be on a lower scale (or nonexistent). [Who am I kidding? I'm not Martha Stewart even in a year when I don't have a baby.... =) Handmade greeting cards are not even on my list of aspirations... handmade caramel popcorn, maybe.]

I just try to remember that the very first Christmas was about a new baby. Even though they didn't have cameras to record it, I'm fairly certain it was not picture-perfect, despite what the artists who paint it would have you believe. The magic of Christmas is in spending time with those you love, sharing love with those who need it and remembering that Christ "laid aside his crown for my soul" --no elaborate decorations or handmade greeting cards required.