I made some choices this Christmas, it being the second Coronatide celebration. Choices that meant there was less “stuff” put on display in terms of Christmas decorations in our home. And choices made to keep my holiday schedule pared down (and that included declining extra pulpit supply gigs for Christmas Day and Christmas Sunday. In case you wondered, that’s a significant chunk of change…)
Please note that I’m not judging you if you did go all-out and deck those halls and do all the things… I took stock of my current level of energy and motivation, and it was not within my mental and emotional reserves to do it. I did put some lights up outside because it brightens up the dark winter nights when I’m returning from work. But even there, I restrained myself.
Our tree was wired up with a 3-point harness because of our parkour cat, Stewart. I put on the lights and candy canes… and never got the other decorations put up. (It’s probably just as well… Stewart knocked off more than one candy cane!) My one concession was a “pandemic angel” created for 2021.
Last year you might remember I made a gaudily-decorated toilet paper roll. This year, masks (unused) seemed to be an appropriate decoration. So the “mask angel” came to be. I was amused remembering that as this year started, we were still re-using masks after letting them air-dry. We had to adjust to varying edicts on mask-on/mask-off from local officials throughout the year. And learn to tune out the pontificating by TV anchors and political pundits over “personal rights” and “the land of the free…” when mask mandates were enforced on public transportation such as airplanes.
I put out a limited version of our crèche, made of olive wood from Bethlehem. I managed to find the Advent wreath before Week 4 of Advent, which was a small victory. (Truthtelling: we didn’t light the candles until Christmas Eve!) I found the Christmas linens, too, in time for our family meals together. And honestly? It was OK.
Internally, I struggled with the “shoulds” – I should get the tree decorated… I should find the family ornaments… I should get out the Christmas decorations from Germany… I should bake and take in cookies for co-workers…
Instead of committing time to decorations and early baking, I sewed presents for our daughters. I cleaned the house so that it was ready for their arrival. (Was it perfect and well-dusted? no… but the beds were made and the towels were clean!) I had long talks with a friend who is going through a recent death in her family. I crocheted and put my feet up and watched a bunch of Netflix episodes. I set boundaries for the “extras” I would not do despite my inner guilt trip(s).
Best of all, by not going into a Christmas frenzy, I had time to re-read one of my favorite Christmas devotionals, A Weary World: Reflections for a Blue Christmas by Kathy Escobar. Among her wisdom are the invitations to feel the “big feelings” and to embrace the paradox of the Incarnation. That the Divine was embedded in humanity. That there is beauty in birth surrounded by blood and pain. That the Light shines… but that the darkness is still there. That we are wounded healers, and yet we have hope. As she says, I was reminded there’s so much beautiful in the ugly, so much holy in the hard, so much tenderness in the brutal.
And for me, in the not-doing, there was more doing — of what really mattered. Creating. Reading. And even taking a therapeutic nap, like our rascal cat, Stewart, who has a spectacular way of reminding me to unwind and do nothing.
There it is in a nutshell… and I’m so grateful that in the not-doing, I had the brain-space, time, and joy for my dearest ones around me. We baked. We cooked. We laughed. We told stories. We shared and received love. What a gift… of TIME, and of not-doing.
To each of you who read this far… Blessings and peace to you in this season of Christmas!