Finding Joy in the Chaos of Christmas

Well, the Christmas season isn’t following the kind of neat and tidy plan that I love so much. One of our sons got married this month – which was wonderful – but it absorbed a lot of my energy and attention for several weeks. And my husband was quite sick for almost a week. And the death of my mother-in-law a year ago this month has weighed heavily on us. And, lest we forget – we are still – after almost two years – in the middle of a pandemic.

So my Christmas plans haven’t gone according to plan – belatedly got the tree up, few gifts purchased, no food gifts made, no gifts wrapped.

In the past, I’ve written about about creating a fun, calm and healthy Christmas and finding joy in the ups and downs of the season. And that sounds good, even logical, right? Let’s enjoy the season, I said. Let’s bring joy to our marriages and families, prepare delicious (and healthy!) food, and enjoy regular exercise in the fresh winter air – all while staying calm, cool and collected.

That’s what a “successful Christmas” looks like, doesn’t it?  Doesn’t it? Well, if it does, then my Christmas season is anything but successful. In fact, at the moment, it looks quite a bit like failure.

But what if I’m focusing on the wrong things?  And what if you are too? I don’t mean that the things we want – peace in our families, beauty in our homes, good health, lovely gifts – are wrong. I’m just beginning to wonder if we should focus our energy on acquiring them. Because when we do, frustration tends to show up and stick around until Christmas is over.

And by then we’ve developed a vague sense of failure, of having “done Christmas wrong.”

But maybe the true joy of Christmas isn’t found in perfection, but rather in chaos, in turning things around by bringing love and joy into the hard parts of the season.  Maybe it’s found in responding to the post office clerk with patience and grace, even though he hasn’t been able to find your package for two days. Maybe it’s found in smiling and saying hello to people, even though they seem to be staring daggers at you.

Maybe it’s found in letting someone into the line of traffic, even though you’ve been trying to escape the parking lot for 10 minutes. Maybe it’s found in making hot chocolate with your kids, even though the house needs to be cleaned. Maybe it’s found in purchasing a gift for someone who needs one, even though your own resources are stretched pretty thin.

Maybe it’s found in recognizing that Christmas is hard for many people, and giving them space to grieve or laugh or survive the season in their own way. And just being there for them. Or maybe it’s found in recognizing that Christmas is hard for you too, and giving yourself the same kind of grace.

Perhaps the key to finding joy in the chaos of Christmas is to focus on the process of celebrating the season, rather than the product. To emphasize love and joy, rather than things and results.

And to celebrate Christ’s birth, not by placing heavy burdens on ourselves or others, but by loving people and treating them with patience, grace and respect. The way He did.

Perhaps we can create a “successful Christmas” after all. But it may require us to face the chaos of the season head on, bringing love and joy right into the heart of it.

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