Ironically, Feliz Navidad is playing on the Christmas playlist as I begin to write this post. While there are many irritating versions of that song, and, inevitably, I have a hankering for Taco John’s ever time I hear it, but it has become a favorite in our house as of late because of, um, our current location. We are so in the culture like that.
Ahh, Christmas. One of my favorite holidays, filled with snow, hot chocolate, festive get-togethers, special treats and cookies, decorations galore…well, you get the picture. In my previous South Dakota life, I would pull out obscene quantities of rubbermaid bins, filled with garland, nativity sets, ornaments, village pieces, lights, and knick knacks galore, and spend DAYS decorating the inside and outside of our picturesque log cabin style home – a home that just radiated the atmosphere of curling up by a warm fire and gazing at Christmas lights twinkling on the tree, the window, the mantle, the staircase…well, pretty much anywhere in your line of sight.
I wasn’t the only one excited about decorating. My mom has always had the tradition of giving each of her grandchildren their own nativity set. So, every year, a new piece is added into the mix, and they absolutely cannot wait to see what figurine they will receive each year around Thanksgiving. We often would be blessed to have my family come stay with us for this feasting holiday, and, of course, we would be so sad when they would have to head home to Minneapolis on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. A couple of years into this, we realized Joshua was never as upset as the rest of us about their departure until we figured out that he was always anxiously waiting for them to leave because he knew that he would then be able to go unpack his whole Christmas nativity set, find it a special location for the holiday season, and figure out where that precious new addition would be so perfectly placed for the next month or so.
Christmas decorations were one of the first steps in our final downsizing excursion. Decisions had to be made about what would be kept long-term, and what would be sold. The nativity sets, absolute keep, no question. But, from there, cutting went deep. It was the beginning of really separating from the items that had memories, but were not so deeply engrained in us that we felt compelled to give up storage space to hold them. We kept three bins of close to twenty and know that these items are the nearest and dearest to our heart.
So, shoot forward to where we are now. No snow, except for the very tops of a couple of the highest volcanoes. The ground is green, but you will see artificial Christmas trees here and there, decorated in a variety of ways. The temperatures are warm enough you don’t crave hot chocolate, but you certainly wouldn’t turn it away. You can’t find peppermint candy canes and the song “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas” isn’t really true. You have to WORK at making it even seem like Christmas, especially when you are from the northern part of the United States where you are use to the climate helping to dictate the season just by the temperature. Last year, we hung one strand of lights in a display of family unity like you’ve never seen (NOT) and didn’t exchange family Christmas gifts, but opted for a trip to the beach instead. Yeah, that went over HUGE. This year, we have graduated to TWO strands of Christmas lights, one which even plays music (turned off, thank you very much), started out with 140 lights and then conveniently went down to seventy within the first two days of use. We have hung four ornaments, two that were gifts, one we found, and a gift bag that doubles at a decoration. Tessa tried making string balls as a great idea, and, thankfully, with a few colored lights behind them, they glitter a bit and have added a tad of twinkle to our evenings.
So, by this time, as you are inevitably asking yourself if there is actually a point to this post, I’ll tell you this. The pendulum has gone from one extreme to another in how our Christmas traditions look. Part of this is due to circumstances and location, but, honestly, here’s the deal. We are still navigating what this new life looks like to us and I think it is clearly reflected in our Christmas holiday. We don’t have a road map of how God wants us to travel on this journey. We debate what we should invest in, what we should spend money on, what our new traditions should look like, what our kids need, what they can give up, what is important, what isn’t…the Christmas season is a microcosm of our life and the changes that we continue to work through.
Our children still want presents – just because we have a different setting, we don’t lose the desire to have the things we want. Maybe, just maybe, their wants have become a bit more simplistic based on their current location and less access to everything we had at our fingertips in the States. Maybe taking a trip to the beach and calling it Christmas is not their perfect or ideal depiction of the holiday. Perhaps we still need to work on finding the balance from our old life to the present circumstances, which will definitely take time and patience.
I guess what I think I’m trying to say is that we all struggle with finding our way…we’re all traveling the Christian journey and all of our walks look a little different. We may be caught up in the trappings of the holidays, whether it be decorating, baking, gift-buying, or whatever challenges you face right now. We may be lamenting the lack of time we have to focus on things that really matter, caught up in the “busy-ness” of the season and the business of Christmas. But, it happens to me, too, in a whole different continent, with no snow, only a few decorations, and less pressure to buy this and buy that. Changing location doesn’t necessarily change circumstances. Because, like it or not, our old life (sinful nature) and our new life (redeemed by Christ) are constantly at odds with each other. It is a struggle we will have until Christ returns to remove us from this temporary life and bring us to him for all eternity.
And, that, my friends, is the whole purpose of Christmas. This babe, born in a lowly manager, is the bridge from the old self to the new. He is the piece of this life that brings us peace. We are assured of our salvation in our present day and age, but we will continue fight against the chains that bind us as we continually die to sin and live for Christ. Praise be to God who gives us this victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.
We still live in the here and now with the trials and temptations of this world, but we have a loving Father who guides us as we navigate the path He has for us. Whether it be finding balance, seeking Him first, resisting worldly offerings, or many other troubles of life, we can rest assured that JOY has come and is there for the taking. Choose JOY this Christmas.