I spent a good part of our Christmases in Brazil feeling rather sorry for myself as it just didn't FEEL like Christmas when it was 100 degrees outside (with green and tropical foliage all around me). And if that weren't horrible enough the Brazilians didn't decorate to my liking. As far as I was concerned, my life had just skipped right past 4 or 5 Christmas seasons. I was deprived of the opportunity to put on that extra 10 pounds I was entitled to. Deprived of the opportunity to overspend on stuff that friends and loved ones didn't need. Deprived of going outside into the crisp, cool air at night and watch my breath as I looked at the Christmas lights my neighbors strung up.
The thing is, I still enjoy the Christmas experience. I am enjoying that fact that it IS cold outside here in the hills of TN and that we can sit in front of a fire in our fireplace. I am enjoying having white elephant gift exchanges, singing Christmas carols on more than one occasion, etc, etc.
But this Christmas is different for me. Very different.
It began feeling different when I realized that part of having a husband out of work for 2 months means Christmas gifts will be limited. And though I hate to admit it I was kinda frustrated at the thought. I've always loved giving and receiving presents. Loved it. It's just so fun! And yet this Christmas...this Christmas, we will have to be oh-so-careful. Unless we want to miss a few days (or weeks) of eating we may have to really limit our gifts.
Knowing that at the heart of things, gifts (at best) are a slight distraction to the true meaning of the season. So I prayed. I prayed for contentment. I prayed for a renewed outlook. I prayed that this year would be a new year and a new kind of Christmas in our home.
At least for me, that prayer was answered.
Not being able to buy tons of gifts turned out to be an incredibly freeing experience. It's always so hard to know where to draw the line when it comes to spending! Not only that but I began feeling a lot more motivated to be creative and do things as a family that will hopefully become yearly traditions. Things that will help fix our eyes on the gift that was given to us so long ago. A gift that can't be bought in stores decorated with lights and trees. Or in malls that play Christmas music and provide a Santa Clause from 12pm-7pm. A gift that won't be forgotten a month from now. A gift that lives inside of me each and everyday, and gives me and my family hope for the future.
Being freed from the opportunity (burden) to buy a lot of gifts was only step #1 in this process. Step #2 was hearing the best, most refreshing sermon on Christmas I've ever heard. The girls and I spent a week in FL while the hubs was out of the country (he did take pictures of the interesting Christmas decorations in Brazil that used to bother me, which made me chuckle). While there, we went to church and heard the aforementioned sermon. I can't even begin to paraphrase all that was said but what spoke to my heart were the facts that 1.) We can't experience Christmas the way that the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, etc, experienced the birth of Christ simply because we weren't there. Our experience will be limited. God had been silent for 400 years as His people were awaiting for the Messiah to come...we simply can't fathom the anticipation that was taking place before Jesus' birth took place! 2.) Though we can't experience it in the same way, we can look back and be amazed. But here's the good part, folks. Not only can we look back and worship but we can look forward (anticipate) the 2nd Noel! Did that hit you like it did me? The 2nd Noel! There's going to be a 2nd one, and we get to be a part of it! I just LOVE the sound of that...the 2nd Noel.
So I'm basking in the joy of looking back at the birth of my King and looking forward to His return. And enjoying the sights and the sounds but still trying to not be distracted by them. Easier said than done :-)
And we did decorate, just in case you were wondering!