I hate Christmas. I know, I know, that’s a terribly Grinch-like thing to say, but let me explain. I hate the pressure of Christmas and the general entitlement attitude in society regarding the holiday. We’re expected to decorate our houses, buy presents, hang lights, buy presents, send Christmas cards, buy presents, bake Christmas cookies, buy presents, and generally spread holiday merriment and cheer everywhere we go. Oh, did I mention buy presents? It’s enough to make a person’s head spin.

The past two Christmases have been rough for me. Last year we made a 1300 mile move from Michigan to Texas at the beginning of December. We weren’t even unpacked when I had to start planning for Christmas. I was also seven months pregnant. Add to that the fact that I was now 1300 miles away from my family, and I was a mess. I thought this year would be better. I was wrong.

My oldest son broke his femur playing football in a backyard game the first weekend of December, as some of you may recall. So on top of everything else associated with Christmas, I also had to step up as a nurse to him as he learned to navigate daily tasks with a wheelchair and crutches. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Christmas wasn’t even on my radar until mid-December, and I got through the holiday by the skin of my teeth.

The Christmas packages to our families were sent out the week of Christmas, the latest I’ve ever gotten them out.  One arrived on Christmas Eve, one didn’t make it by Christmas at all.  The Christmas cookies I always make as gifts for local friends were finally baked and handed out the day before Christmas Eve. I realized with horror on Christmas Eve that we only had one gift for our 3-year old from us. Granted, it was a bike, but still, she only got one gift from us while the others got at least three. And I was still wrapping gifts on Christmas Day minutes before the kids ripped into their gifts. Like I said, I made it by the skin of my teeth.

Yet this Christmas was not without its blessings. Despite the rather lopsided gift-giving on our part, each of our children ended up with exactly the same number of gifts to open, a near-impossible feat given the fact that out-of-town relatives and sponsors send gifts as well, which doesn’t always equate to equal numbers for the kids. Plus, my oldest two actually bought gifts for other family members this year of their own accord and with their own money. I took my eldest, crutches and all, to Walmart with me one day so he could pick gifts for his younger siblings and for me. (His gift to his father was already purchased, lest you think he left anyone out.) And my second oldest walked down to our local grocery store one day to buy me a Hershey’s bar with his own money, a particularly meaningful gift since he has an infatuation with money and hoarding as much of it as possible. To see my two oldest get excited about buying and giving gifts was a gift in and of itself.

Then, of course, there was the Christmas Eve service. My oldest three kids each had a part. I can honestly say that’s the only time I’ve ever seen Gabriel portrayed on crutches, but he said his lines clearly and confidently, and my shepherd and angel did their parts well, too. Part of the service this year included the kids singing certain hymn verses, and hearing my children sing the first verse of “Savior of the Nations, Come” at home was worth a lot to this church musician. And not to be outdone, my three-year old cheerfully joined my six-year old singing countless renditions of “Happy Birthday to Jesus” throughout the day on Christmas. 

You see, somehow Christmas worked this year. Despite my seeming unpreparedness for the whole thing, Christmas came anyhow. It didn’t matter if certain gifts didn’t arrive on time or whether I made cookies or not, or even whether I had an equal number of gifts for everyone. Those things are nice, sure, but they aren’t what makes Christmas, Christmas. Watching my children sing their praises to the newborn King in the manger humbled me as I realized that they know what Christmas is really about. Yeah, they get worked up about presents, too. What kid doesn’t? But they also know that ultimately, the best gift isn’t under the tree. It’s in a crude manger in a little town of Bethlehem. 

So I guess in the end maybe I don’t hate Christmas that much after all. I actually ended up enjoying it this year. Maybe even enough to try it again next December.

Photo is grinch by Todd Austin