Christmas Chaos

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

 What in the world is going on with the holidays this year?  Am I the only one who feels like everything is starting to spin out of control right before the big day is even here?  Am I going to lose my mind just in time for Christmas morning?  Or do the Mayans have it right after all?

Goodness gracious, this has been an insane season.  This last week alone has felt more chaotic in every way than memories of many Christmases past.  Personally, it is just a crazy-busy time.  (I know I'm not alone in feeling that!)  My hours at working seasonal help at Williams-Sonoma have picked up significantly as Christmas approaches, so much so that I was happy to pawn off some of my work time on another girl who was really trying to earn as many hours as possible (yay - win/win!).

Josh has also been working late a lot, maxing out his days before deadlines and new semesters arrive (he is an administrator at a local Christian high school).  And, for some ridiculous reason, I took it upon myself to primarily try and craft the majority of Christmas gifts for the family this year.

She may not have my same affinity for crafting
Side-note here on Christmas crafting - WHAT was I thinking?  I absolutely got suckered into amazing photographs off Pinterest and talked myself into the affordability that people will appreciate the effort of my endeavors and thoughtfulness over an alternatively less personal gift.  Oh me, oh my.  Well, I truly am counting on my family seeing the heart behind much of my production.  All in all, much has turned out fine or even better-than-I-expected-in-the-end.  But, let me tell you, it was not without much trial and many errors!  (I realize I can't expand yet on what I actually have worked on, so as not to reveal any gift secrets, but trust me, many a mess was made in the name of Pinteresting!)  Looks like everyone might be getting gift cards next Christmas.  Haha.

Back to the chaos.  So, you take all those obligations, and you throw in a couple toddlers.  Okay!  On top of all the time I don't have to do the laundry or dishes, I will cram two little bodies into that schedule and do my darndest to offer them attention or at least the promise of food, water, shelter, and hugs.  We've done our best to make intentional time for seeing Santa, having friends over, and keeping our home merry and bright (even if it does mean the tree has fallen over a grand total of SIX times now...seriously?)  We've watched many a Christmas movie (Matilda now loudly announces "Did you hear that?" after she burps, thanks to watching Elf) and indulged in holiday treats that let us know that, without-a-doubt, Jolly Old St. Nick is on his way (if none of that gave it away, then listening to Matilda sing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" every single night as she goes to sleep really seals the deal).  Indeed, this Christmas-a-go-go is in full swing.  And as the checklist only seems to be getting longer and longer, I know that somehow, someway, everything will manage to get done before this next week is up.

And then, the world stopped last Friday.  You already know what I'm talking about.  You can't turn on the TV or Internet for two seconds without seeing a new update or story about the horrific events of Newtown, Connecticut and all that occurred there on December 14th.  We see the news, we read our friend's status updates about how we all feel just sick and sad and grateful and confused about it all.

And just like that, I'm stopped in my tracks and holding back sobs as I cling to my babies and thank God for what He has given me.  I'm at a total loss for words in my prayers for the families and parents and everyone even remotely tied to that event in any way.  And then my mind wanders for a second and I consider all the horrors of the world that I don't even know about.  All the children that only God can see hurting.  All the names that go unread.  All the pain that feels unknown.  And I'm angry and just so so sad and confused.

And I'm supposed to go Christmas shopping and bake cookies in the middle of all this?  I'm supposed to fold laundry and stuff stockings and carry on like it doesn't matter?

God, what in the world?

Yes and no.  Yes, we must carry on.  No, not as if it doesn't matter.  It matters.  It all matters.  In fact, it's for these reasons and many more that Christmas even exists at all.  Right?  There wouldn't be a Christmas, after all, if we didn't need a Savior.  And, just when we think we are going to go crazy from watching Christmas commercials on TV, something unimaginable like the Sandy Hook tragedy happens and we are reminded in an instant of what truly matters and how we are so, so desperately in need of a Savior.  All of us.

A sweet moment not taken for granted.
I have more questions than answers in this life.  But, I don't need a lot of answers.  I only need the one answer that matters most, that conquers death, that diffuses confusion, and creates new mercies with every act of love - I only need Jesus.  We all only need Jesus.  I don't mean to diminish anyone's questions or doubts, in fact, I encourage us all to take this time and ask God the hard questions and keep looking for how we can strengthen our faith, especially at times of amplified emotion (which the holidays already are, regardless of what's on the news).

This frantic state of hustle and bustle that the holidays throw at all of us also got me thinking about the first Nativity and what it must have been like.  I look at my neatly sculpted Nativities that sit about my home and I see the Christmas cards flooding in that have serene pictures depicting the birth of Christ and I get this warm and fuzzy feeling about how calm and beautiful it must have been.  It seems so precious, so perfect, as if I can only imagine it with Silent Night playing the background and the warm glow of the Christmas Star shining overhead to perfectly light the scene.

And then, I really start to think about it.  Slowly I'm imagining the stench of barnyard animals and afterbirth.  I imagine (no matter how sweetly) the cries of baby Jesus and the sweat beaded up on Mary's brow.  I imagine the anxiety and fears of Joseph.  I think of the shepherds, stunned and skeptical with joy.  And I can't even fathom the chaos of the time - a forced census crowding the tiny town of Bethlehem, the scary authority of the cruel and controlling King Herod and how "political turmoil" is the lightest term I can think of for the state of Israel.

New International Version Matthew 2:16
"When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi."

This was not a pretty time, people.  The world was in CHAOS!  And there wasn't the refuge of shopping malls or Charlie Brown Christmas Specials or making fudge or wrapping gifts to take their minds off the fact that the world needed a Messiah.  I can not fathom the horrors that rocked the planet at that time...much like I can't imagine the horrors that exist today - this week - right here.

I don't bring this up to send us spiraling down a holiday road of depression.  No, no - not at all.  It feels as if the world has never been as bad as it is now...but, that's not true.  In fact, since the fall of man, we have always been lost.  Enter this:  the good news of Christmas!  One tiny, perfect, miracle baby was born to bring us the only hope we'd ever need.  Jesus could have chosen any entrance into the world, but he came at a time of great horror and chaos to deliver us and provide a path to eternal joy.  It sounds kooky, it sounds unbelievable, it sounds unfathomable, and yet, it's all true.

It's been an emotional roller coaster for most of us this month.  I don't know anyone who hasn't been exhausted lately.  It seems everywhere we turn someone is either sick or sad or just frustrated with this manic season.  And I catch myself daily being confronted with choosing gratitude and peace over anxiety and worry.  Because I have to be intentional in choosing it, it's not natural for me to default to a calm state of thankfulness in the middle of such a crazy, unfair world.  I can so easily find myself hung up on things like "I wish I had more money to buy this or that for my girls for Christmas" and now choosing to intentionally change that thought to "Thank you, God, for my [living, breathing, healthy, ornery] girls that I get to spend Christmas with."

Merry Christmas from the Pardys
If this last week has taught me anything, it's that the world isn't going to get less crazy until Jesus returns.  Our need for Him will never lessen.  And, with each step towards the chaos, I grow in my capacity to be grateful.  That is, because we hurt more, we recognize our need more, and can deepen in our gratitude for what we have been given.  Jesus isn't just the reason for the season...He's the only answer for peace on earth.

I pray love and peace to you and yours this Christmas.  I hope you can hug someone you love and laugh as you assemble ridiculous toys for your kids on Christmas Eve.  And, above all, I pray you find Jesus amidst whatever Christmas chaos you are experiencing.  This time of year is full of highs and lows of all kinds.  Emotions and anxieties and electric bills all run high, and it can be very easy to forget why we're all running around like maniacs.  This world might not get any quieter while we're in it, but we're all in it together.  Let's take a deep breath, thank our Savior, and spread the good news that we are not without hope.

Merry Christmas!

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