Between swingy Michael Buble and poppy Kelly Clarkson, Sirius XM Holly often likes to drop in “Where Are You Christmas” by Faith Hill. It always puts me in a melancholy mood.
Christmas longing often lingers just below the surface of Christmas happiness. I’ve certainly had holidays guided by this feeling. And all it takes is a quiet, introspective song to take me back.
Yet, on the flipside, Christmas seems to only further amplify a child's unbridled joy.
When I was tucking in my middle child into bed last night, she whispered to me with wonderment in her sleepy eyes, "I'm dreaming of sweets!"
I remember that Christmas feeling - the thrill, the anticipation. How can a grown-up Christmas compare? Maybe it requires a harder look. After all, what we long for isn’t happiness, which is circumstantial. We long for the deep, constant contentment and excitement that comes from knowing that Jesus came for us, is with us, and is for us. This is Christmas joy.
My friend Kate Twohig has been doing some Christmas reflection of her own and today shares a thoughtful piece on this very topic. Here's her crew! (You may recall Kate did a post earlier this year on family life, which can be found here.)
I hope reading Kate's piece helps you view Christmas joy in a new way!
In Kate's words...
Every time I think of Christmas past, two memories come to mind right away.
The first is an annual family tradition. Late on Christmas Eve, my family would arrive home from my grandma’s house. My three brothers, two sisters, parents and I would get cozy in our living room. Christmas music would be playing softly and the room would be dark, except for the soft, white lights of the Christmas tree. My dad would pop open a bottle of champagne, give everyone a glass (a teeny amount for the kids, of course), and he would give a lovely toast. It was such an intimate, special moment and one I always remember fondly, especially when I drink champagne.
The second memory is a kind deed my mom did every holiday. She’d receive a Christmas wish list from a local family who couldn’t afford to buy gifts. Each wish list had the ages of the children. When I was about ten, we received a list, in which the children requested gloves, mittens, hats and underwear. This may have been the first time I truly understood how fortunate my family was and how difficult life was for other families.
A few days before Christmas last year, I took some quiet time and forced myself to think about special Christmas moments throughout my life. I was completely stressed out trying to make my children’s Christmas “perfect,” and I wasn’t finding much joy in the season. I couldn’t find a certain gift one child wanted, I forgot to buy a couple of gifts, and I felt very overwhelmed with all the errands I still needed to complete.
When I was a child, Christmas was my favorite holiday. I loved everything about it—the baking, decorating, music, movies and all the special holiday events my family attended. Now, as an adult it ranked as my third favorite holiday behind Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. How did I lose my love for Christmas? How could I get some of that childhood magic back?
In thinking about memorable moments from the past, it became quite apparent: I was focusing on all the wrong things.
The strongest, most enjoyable memories included themes of family, tradition and service. Years from now, my kids probably weren’t going to remember all the presents they received but they would hopefully remember the special things we did as a family.
I knew right away my holiday focus needed to change. Although my family had begun some of our own traditions like picking out fresh cut trees and attending Christmas plays and concerts, we hadn’t focused much of our attention on service projects or acts of kindness.
I can vividly remember how my mom and I shopped for that family in need. We did buy gloves, mittens, hats and underwear, but we also bought a lot of fun toys for each child. Even though I never enjoyed shopping, I can remember having fun picking out all those toys. That Christmas morning I felt very joyful as I imagined that family opening their gifts. I learned first-hand it was just as much fun to give as it was to receive.
Once I realized that I wanted my children to understand the joy of giving, I decided to start volunteering as a family right away. Luckily, our school district has so many opportunities to help our community. This past year, my family has volunteered for initiatives that have helped animal shelters, other local school districts, the homeless and our military troops. Volunteering along with my husband and my seven and four year olds has been a wonderful experience and one we plan to continue.
This holiday, my family sponsored a family in need, just like my family once did. My children were involved in purchasing and wrapping gifts so they can continue to learn the importance of giving. Perhaps this will become one of our family’s annual holiday traditions.
I realize there is no such thing as “perfect” Christmas, and I’m trying to worry less about the little stuff. By focusing more on others and less on material things, I’m already feeling much more joyful this holiday season. I hope some of these good deeds and acts of service will be memories that my son and daughter will look back upon and remember fondly throughout their lives.
Thank you Kate! One more blog post remains in The Happy Holidays Series... stay tuned for a piece on yummy treats!