There’s something sad about a Christmas tree after Christmas. It’s empty underneath except for the few ornaments that have fallen through the branches and were never re-secured. The tree skirt is all wocky-jawed, sprinkled with sheddings. Even switching on the lights doesn't bring it to life like it did before December the 25th. I’ve never liked coming home to a post-Christmas house. The energy is spent, the anticipation has vanished and the opportunities of the season are lost..... until next year, that is. If I had the stamina of Tigger and the time of Mr. Magoo, I would try to take all the decorations down before we left for Georgia so I wouldn’t have to come home to it, but that would have a sadness all its own. Unfortunately, this year I found out there is something much more depressing. Personally, I had some regrets this Christmas. It’s hard to type, but it’s the truth.
Oh, it wasn’t ALL bad. We actually had a lot of fun and made some great memories. This was mine and Jeff’s first Christmas to keep a big secret and carry out “Operation Puppy Sanders”. And because of this complicated operation, this is the Christmas our children will remember being greeted at the front door by a little puppy named Gabriel who had a big red bow around his neck, thus the puppy that rode 30 hours round trip sitting between them in his crate. (Yes, you read that right and, no, miraculously, that is not one of my regrets.) It will be the Christmas I remember Brighton started noticing his hair, refusing to get out of the car seven hours into our trip because his hair was “freaky”! Whose hair isn’t “freaky” after seven hours in the car?? He began the routine of raking his blonde mop with his fingers which only created more static, thus more frustration and “freak”. So at every pit stop, instead of having 6 year old boy road trip hair, he looked as if he had a yellow helmet plastered to his head. One new thing we tried out this year in order to simplify things for us and the children, we adopted my friend Nikki’s mantra to give the children, “Something you want, something you need, something to play with and something to read.” Once stockings and packages were opened Christmas morning, the kid’s sheer delight and genuine words of, “This is the best Christmas EVER!” were music to our ears. (These words were belted out pre-puppy.) It was also the Christmas that as Santa made his way down the chimney in Soperton on Christmas Eve, the Tooth Fairy flew in the window, after my niece, Hunter, was successful after an all day attempt at pulling Brighton’s second tooth. I won’t forget, and neither will Jeff’s parents, the pack of dogs that came to celebrate Christmas with the Sanders clan. Everyone brought their puppies! I told “Meema” I wanted to be like her when I grew up! The four of us watch The Nativity Story every year and my favorite thing to see and hear with each passing year is how it brings to surface new emotions, new intrigues, new questions regarding this beautiful, mysterious story of the ages as their minds develop. In Brighton’s world, King Herod is the worst man who ever walked on the planet and in Julia’s, she’s beginning to understand the Israelite’s, and our own, need for a Deliverer. Incidentally, so am I.
As I was falling asleep one night last week, I had the thought that maybe I had celebrated this Christmas like a pagan. Not my best bedtime thought. This string of thoughts was worse than any night time parenting regret I’ve ever had. I can try to be a better parent when the sun rises. With Christmas, I have to wait a whole year to do it differently. I’ve often wondered what this particular holiday was like for people who don’t know Christ personally. I would think it would seem like a heap of trouble and a major hurting on the bank account and all for what? For who? Ourselves? Ick.
What did I do? I executed Christmas without actually experiencing it. I decorated my house for the celebration of His birth. I talked about Him. I listened to songs about Him. I saw things that represented Him in my home. I made a cake for Him. I even read about Him.......to my children. However, I don’t think I ever really entered in. I didn’t make time to enter in, to ponder, to reflect. And I regret it. Immensely. I feel I suffered the consequences for days before I realized my sin. I made my choices every day, the main one being execution instead of experiencing which forced me to land on the other side of Christmas empty.
What will I do next year? The thing is, there’s no magic formula. There is no “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” list I will check off next year and how absurd would that be anyway? It’s my choice of how I spend the hours that make up the season. It’s my choice whether or not I want to include the “execution of Christmas” on my list of “pass on’s” to my kids instead of the “experience of Christmas”.
My obvious prayer for next year will be all about “experience”. I don’t want a repeat. I suspect we will do a lot of the same things, but, personally, I want to experience them differently, from a better perspective, with a heart that’s close to bursting with anticipation. He may ask me to change some things. He may not, but whatever He asks, I will do. When we pull into our garage after our time in Georgia in 2010, I don’t want the lifeless tree to be a sight to avoid but one to see and relish the time I chose to ponder and to experience Him, my Savior and my Deliverer from my sins. So be it.