Somewhere around the beginning of December every year, my family would drive to Clarksville, Georgia, and cut down our Christmas tree. Even now I can close my eyes and draw you an exact map of Purcell’s Christmas Tree Farm, from the garage where we sweet-talked candy from the Colonel, striped measuring poles leaned up against the wall just begging for an impromptu jousting match, right down to the tree shaker positioned catacorner to the tree baler, a coveted spot we would fight over while we threatened to send each other through the netting. (Also, let’s stop for a second and talk about THE GIANT SWEATERS. There was maximum uncoolness happening here and I couldn’t have cared less. I loved that darn sweater.)
What will you remember?
Here’s the thing. My parents remember it a little differently. Their versions have a lot more tears, more than a few sullen pre-teens, and a whole lot of fighting. But for us, it was home. See, we never had a lot of material things under the tree. In fact, the only presents I still remember are the aprons we made together in a particularly lean year and the stuffed rabbit my papa gave me in a season right before he died. That didn’t stop Christmas from being my favorite time of year, a season of wonder and story and smell. My memories are wrapped up not in the presents piled under the tree, but in the scent of fresh-cut pine and the deep baritone of my dad’s voice reading the Christmas story.
Year after year, my parents gifted us time, grace, and the gospel.
Now I’m inviting you in this season of Advent, a season of giving and grace, and sometimes grief, to give time and the gospel to those you love. To prepare Him room, to set aside expectations that are unrealistic, unrealized, and frankly, unimportant.
So first in the order of business is to literally make room. Clear out the expectations you’ve placed on yourself for gift-giving, perfect pinterest memories, gingerbread houses, and angelic children caroling their way through the season. Make a list. Check it twice. Then cross out a bunch of things that don’t really matter. In all seriousness, make a list of three categories. Things you must do, things that would be nice to do, and things that can stay or go. Now look at that list and decide what can go. Playdates can go. Shopping trips can go. Holiday parties can go. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. Don’t be afraid to change up priorities to accomplish the must. Don’t be afraid to cut the dead weight.
And don’t be married to tradition. Alternatively, be nontraditional about keeping a tradition. Prayerfully consider what is at the heart of your traditions and determine if it’s worth your time and effort, and if yes, how can you keep the spirit of tradition, and still keep your sanity intact and your stress level low (ish). I only send Christmas cards to the senior generation in our extended family, less married to technology, convenience, and digital photos. (And siblings, because that’s just fun). If I wanted to send them to everyone we loved, I’d be spending hundreds of dollars and hours upon hours that I just don’t have. Our compromise is to know the people who cherish them most, set a cap, and then write a Christmas blog post for everyone else.
I do, however, march my family out to the Christmas tree farm and force them to take a million pictures. A girl can only let go of so much.
Perhaps most importantly, dear ones, smash your idols. I can’t say this enough. It’s also the hardest thing to do amidst all the tinsel and the glitter. Comparison is the thief of joy, and oh, we’ve got a million ways and a million mirrors, and they all say you aren’t ___ enough. Rich enough. Crafty enough. Spiritual enough. Parenting enough. And you know what. They’re right. I’m not enough. You know what is, though?
There is a multitude of grace to cover my not-enoughness. And maybe that’s the best way to celebrate his birth, all broken up and crying out for mercy, knowing how very lost we are without it. Advent won’t look the way you planned. But don’t let it steal your joy. Because this, my friends, is a season of joy, the greatest joy, the birth of a newborn King. Good news that will be for all the people.
Prepare Him room.
Thanks, Molly. I needed this.