Saturday, December 13, 2014

Failing Christmas

Christmas nearly always leaves me feeling like a failure.

Literally.  When the day is done and the wrapping paper all thrown out and the dishes drying in the rack, I feel defeated.  Like Christmas beat me.  Again.

And usually it's because of this.

No matter how I try and I plan and I hope, I'm left feeling that Christmas wasn't about what it was supposed to be about.  And that it was about all it shouldn't be about.  And somehow the weight of that lands squarely on my shoulders.

And I go to bed feeling heavy.  Waiting for next year.  Looking for a redo.

We've gone back and forth with the Santa thing.  Sometimes I think getting rid of him would solve my problem.  I certainly understand why people do.  But the Christmases of my childhood were magical.  And Santa was a big part of that.  So now, I can't seem to let him go.

It's not something I admit often, but I believed in Santa until I was almost 12.  12 years old.  That's middle school, people.

I mean, my parents were pretty convincing.  Honestly, in my 31 years I have never heard them admit that Santa's not real.  When I would ask if it was true, what the kids were saying at school, they would ask, in turn, what did I think?  I think he's real, I'd reply with wide eyes.  And as long as that was good enough for me, that was good enough for them.

Plus, I know I saw Santa and his reindeer, flying through the sky, one Christmas Eve.  I was staring out my sister's window, fighting to keep my heavy eyelids open.  She missed it.  But I saw it.  I was sure of it.  And my parents weren't surprised at all.  They acted as though it was inevitable.  That, of course, I saw him.  What did I think, they were making all of this up?

I was certainly disappointed when I found out.  I was most mad at my sister, who apparently knew years and years before I did, but pretended to believe every Christmas anyhow.  Just to let the magic live on for me.  (Turns out I was a pretty lucky girl.)

But I didn't feel duped by my parents.  I didn't feel lied to, or betrayed.

And looking back, I wonder if it didn't help my faith.  To believe, if only for a time, in the unseen.

Even so, I can't help, as a mom myself, feeling this huge pressure every Christmas.

While clearly there's a lot of pressure surrounding Christmas in general, I think there's added pressure in Christian parent circles.  To make Christmas day the very pinnacle of our family's spirituality.  With the proper Advent build-up and a Christmas day where the little baby Jesus is held up before anything else.  Where our kids finally see and believe and appreciate all that God did for us in sending His Son to earth.  To be with us.

It's true.  For sure.  That Jesus is the best gift of Christmas.  That He is what it's all about.

But this year I'm cutting myself a break.  This year I'm not going to fight the presents and the cookies and the twinkling Christmas lights.  This year, I'm letting go.

I've decided this year to stop making my children appreciate the meaning of Christmas.  And instead, to appreciate it myself.  I've decided to stop making my children give.  And instead, to give myself.  I've decided to stop making them notice.  And instead, to notice myself.

If they see all that, great!  Even better.

But if they don't.  It's okay.  There are more days to think about Jesus and God and faith than just Christmas day.  If He's not the most important part of their day this year, that's okay.

I used to think that my most life-changing moments as a Christian would always happen at church or on important holidays or at Christian music festivals and conferences.  And they used to.  Absolutely.

But then I had kids.  And now, the most powerful moments of my faith, thus far, have been random, average, everyday conversations with my kids.

Not surrounding any holiday or special event.  Often they happen in the car.  Or at bed time.

My kids will ask about heaven or Jesus or kids who don't have moms and dads.  And as we talk, as I tell them about stories from the bible, about God's promises, about my own thoughts, I realize, with absolute certainty, Holy crap, I really believe this stuff.

I really believe it and it is so stinking beautiful that I almost always cry.  Quietly.  Or at least tear up a bit.

And my kids will eventually turn the conversation to which kind of performance tip they'll use for their next Bey Blade battle.  But the words we spoke won't leave me for some time.  The bursting feeling in my heart will stay.  And will change me.

There's a common thread in these conversations, though.  They're not forced.  There's no pressure.  No obvious importance.

They just happen and they're moving and gorgeous.  And they rarely, if ever, occur on specific Christian holidays.  They're nearly always on an everyday.

So this Christmas we'll tell the story of Jesus' birth and we'll open presents, and we'll check to make sure Santa ate all of his cookies and drank all of his milk.

And I'll let myself off the hook.  I'll know that there are 364 more days this year to talk about and appreciate and love Jesus.  That, although this is an obvious day for it, it's not the only one.

This year I'll say a prayer of thankfulness before bed, on Christmas night.  For my family, my children, for Christmas.  I'll pray for the people who aren't as lucky as I am.  Who are feeling like failures this Christmas because they couldn't get their children any Christmas gifts, instead of fretting that they got too many.

I'll thank God for sending His Son and sit back with a quiet smile as the day unfolds however it unfolds.

This Christmas, I'm not going to force it.  I'm going to let it happen.  I'm going to know, in my heart, what it's all about.  And I'm going to let that be enough.

(And also, I'm going to write it down here, because there's a good chance I'm going to forget!)


  1. This is beautiful and so perfectly said. It's can be hard not to get caught up in the material-ness of Christmas. Sometimes when I fight against it, it makes it worse. Because you're right. Although Christmas is obvious day to talk about Jesus and faith, it's not the only one. And sometimes when we force things (on our kids and on ourselves) it ends up being less meanigful that those moments that occur naturally. Merry Christmas!!

    1. That is totally it! Thanks for your comment. This year was so much better for me, and I didn't go to bed feeling like a failure:) Hope it was good for you too.