When I was a little girl, my pastor said something that shook me to my core. I remember it as if it happened just yesterday. It was a casual comment, made in the midst of polite conversation as we all sat around one summer evening, eating peanut butter ice cream on the screened-in porch at our pastor’s home.
I loved my pastor and his wife. They were kind and generous, and they often invited my family and me into their home for dinner. My parents reciprocated — not out of a sense of obligation, but because there was a true friendship among our families. I admired my pastor, and I respected his thoughts about the world and so, when he casually tossed out these words, “Oh yeah, my wife always has her Christmas shopping done, and the presents wrapped, by the end of August,” I thought the world was ending.
“What?” I asked, out loud. “August?” my seven-year-old self inquired.
“Yep,” the pastor smiled at me, and his wife nodded her head to confirm this astounding news which was slowly revealing itself to be factual.
The adults returned to their conversation, laughing aloud and clinking their spoons against their bowls as they devoured the last delicious dredges of peanut butter ice cream. I, however, sat there in my chair, my legs dangling above the ground and my ice cream spoon paused in midair.
My child mind was reeling.
How in the world, I thought to myself, could anyone be thinking about Christmas — in August?
I have never been a planner. I live in the moment. When left to my own devices, I am spontaneous and carefree. I fly by the seat of my pants. The organized people of the world shudder in my wake. I am never — and I mean that quite literally — thinking about Christmas in August. Not ever. This, of course, causes quite the conundrum when Christmas actually does roll around. Not to mention the fact that I’m a terrible gift-giver.
Not My Favorite
As a non-planner, I’ve experienced every brand of drama that results from not having thought things through, leaving me unprepared for one of the biggest holidays of the year. In the end, however, what I realized is that having my presents bought and wrapped in August wasn’t going to change anything for me. To have that done, I’d still have to plan it, right? Buying my gifts in August isn’t going to make me a better gift-giver, nor is it going to help me manage the looming expectations that come with the Christmas holidays — even if those expectations are a figment of my imagination.
So, one year I sat myself down and reasoned with me.
What I realized is that Christmas is not my holiday. Did you just gasp out loud? I’m sorry. And, here I should probably warn you to brace yourself because, what I discovered is that Christmas is probably my least favorite holiday. I know! I know! Lord, have mercy. As I told a friend the other day, “I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. Christmas? I can take it or leave it.” My friend gave me a high five in response.
And this, dear friend, is the point of this message. You-who-would-be-fine-with-skipping-Christmas-altogether, I simply want to say that you are not alone. Your reasons may be different from mine, but you are not alone. Consider this my high-five to you. I see you across the crowded room of ugly Christmas sweaters and tables laden with Secret Santa gifts, and I’m raising a glass in your direction. I see you shifting your weight from one foot to the other while you wait patiently in line at the big box store, hoping your credit card doesn’t get declined, and I am willing you across the finish line. It will all be over, soon.
Don’t Mind Us
For those of you who can’t quite get where we’re coming from, I offer this: It’s not the actual Christmas story that undoes us. We are truly enraptured by Immanuel — the gift of everlasting life and love and light — offered to the world in the form of a baby in a manger. We love Jesus. A lot.
It’s the shopping/wrapping/decorating/baking Christmas that wears us out. And the planning.
It should be said, we are deeply indebted to those of you who come alive during this time of year. If it were left up to us, everyone would be sorely disappointed each year on Christmas morning.
So don’t mind us.
We’re simply going to step aside and let you handle this one. We will cheer you on and sing your praises. We will marvel at your decorating skills and your ability to find the exact right gift for everyone on your list. We will rest in the knowledge that we are better suited for things like spontaneous trips to Paris and last-minute hair color decisions. Tell us where to stand for the holiday photo, and we will show up and we will smile. And, when we all sit down to Christmas breakfast and we bow our heads to say a prayer, we will breathe a sigh of gratitude for the way you always make Christmas so special — even for those of us who end up gifting everyone with five dollar gift cards for iTunes that we bought ten minutes ago at Walgreens.
Here’s to the Christmas lovers and those who’d be fine skipping Christmas altogether. We need each other, don’t we? We do. We absolutely do.