My father told me a story while I was up in Philadelphia last week about a little radio excerpt of the famous “Twelve Days of Christmas.” However, in this version – it was a letter being being read from the “True Love” recipient to the kind giver of the many gifts.
The letters start out with much affection and in much gratitude for the “partridge in the pear tree”, the “turtle doves”, “french hens” and “calling birds.” The love within the written words starts to dwindle as the “swans a swimming” and “maids a milking” arrive to the scene. The endearment is but a tiny ember as the “lords a leaping” take effect, and by the time the “pipers are pipping” and the “drummers are drumming,” the chaos climaxes while the frustration erupts. It is simply too much for the True Love to even handle. It is a very humorous insight into what might happen if these impractical, (albeit thoughtful) presents were actually received together under one roof. * And paints a pretty perfect picture of my house on any given Tuesday morning…*
On this 4th day of Christmas, ( Yes! The song refers to the 12 after!) with its 68 degree weather, I am finding it somewhat hard to keep that “Holly, jolly”, “weather outside is frightful”, kind of feeling. However, is there truth in what the songs and movies tell us- is Christmas just a feeling?
I’m going to argue that it’s not.
When I was growing up, the weeks leading up to Christmas were nothing short of hustle and bustle. My father was busy writing sermons for Sunday, Christmas Eve and Christmas day. My mother was leading the floral festivities of church decorating. And I was deep in drama- coordinating the children’s Christmas pageant. Time seemed to fly by as the doors of our chocolate-filled Advent calendar were opened each morning. Next thing I knew, it was Christmas Eve, and I was standing in the chapel with 10 minutes ’till show time, 3 extra shepherds, 2 broken halos, and a half-swaddled baby-doll Jesus tucked under Joseph’s arm like a football. And somehow, it went off without a hitch. It always did- like God himself was shining down on our 2-star production of the Nativity- guiding the shepherds and their dinosaurs, the half-dressed angels, and the audience’s hearts to that lowly manger in Bethlehem.
The highlight of it all would be when later that night, amidst a quiet, candle-lit congregation, the baby Jesus was lovingly cradled and walked down to the life-sized stable in the back of the church to the solemn singing of Silent Night.
Nothing else mattered in those very moments. Not the un-wrapped presents, the many wardrobe changes ’till I had found the perfect pieces to wear, the weather, or even the world.
I was completely transfixed on the face of our Lord, dimly lit by the flickering flames of those gathered around him.
And all was right.
Then, why- do I find it so hard to keep that in my life- all season long- all the year’s long?
Because I am attaching my Christmas joy to a feeling. A few fleeting moments of happiness when everything seemed right. The tree looked magazine-worthy, the cookies were baked to perfection, the weather was chilly and snowy, the carols echoed through the stores and streets, and people smiled while greeting each other with gifts.
What isn’t there to love about this time of year?
Alas- all those things do go away. The tree gets taken down, ( some day- if you get a chance- ask my mother about how I would practically chain myself to the tree in a complete boycott and meltdown of its deconstruction…I handled it with such maturity…but, honestly- I’m thinking of starting a support group because it’s my least favorite day of the year and I have a feeling I’m not alone…) the cookies get eaten or tossed, the snow melts – or in the case of NOVA- never comes, and the music goes back to Pop while the stores slash prices and start pushing candy hearts.
That scene does not bring me joy.
But we need to find it- no matter the holiday, the weather, the condition of our homes, attitudes of our kids, and state of the world.
We need to find the JOY.
I am not just talking about letting go of the trunk of the tree… uhhheemmmm, Monica… although, that would help.
I am suggesting, per a powerful sermon by Bishop Barron, that we get off the roller coaster taking us on the ups and downs of our days and focus on the thing that never changes- Jesus.
He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. And we cannot say that about anything else in our lives.
I know many people like to head into the New Year with a mantra, so I’ll lend you mine for 2022: “Let Go & Let God. Repeat.”
I know you’ve probably heard the first part before, but did you happen to notice how I enhanced it? Repeat! I’m super amazing at giving God a few problems here and there, but I also tend to hold back some things, too- relying on my own strength, abilities and vision to get out of a jam. Spoiler alert- I’m not God. And I have no idea how to get out of 80% of my jams. And to deal with the daily chaos that is my life. My goal this year? To fully rely on God ( FROG). And you guessed it- REPEAT!
Dear friends, that is certainly going to be the challenge. To constantly give Him the loads of laundry, the sassy sarcasm from ‘tweens, the traffic, and all the unknowns. Are you up for it? There’s going to be a ton of failure, so get ready for it…
Just as we make a plan to lose the Christmas cookie weight or finally organize the spice drawer-both alphabetically and by height- let’s make a plan that’s meant to last.
Jesus did not come on Christmas Day for us to barely hang to the safety bar on the whipping, whirling roller coaster of feeling. He didn’t come to save the world only for us to be happy once a year. He came for us to live, and live to the fullest. With Christmas JOY. Each and every day.
Sent with more perfect love than “a partridge in a pear tree” or even those “twelve drummers drumming,” you’ve got the greatest gift in your hands. Now, what happens next is up to you.
Merry Christmas to all and a Happy, JOYful New Year!