In the well-known movie Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswald’s big plans for a holiday celebration turn into a huge disaster — from his desire for the biggest tree to the flashiest lights in the neighborhood and on and on — Clark’s longing to outdo everyone else leaves him looking like a failure. Attempting to hold onto a positive attitude, he wrestles and struggles his way through one mishap after another, seemingly oblivious to the turmoil he has created by insisting on doing things his own way while riding on the coattails of unrealistic expectations. At the end of the show, we see Clark still somewhat living in a dream world as he happily looks to the sky and states, “I did it!”
What about you?
The temptation to create the perfect holiday atmosphere can easily override the true reason we celebrate Christmas. One can quickly be overwhelmed by the desire to have the grandest (and Pinterest approved) decorations, complete with enough lights to illuminate all of Manhattan. Decorating’s not your thing? Well, maybe your efforts are poured into creating the ultimate holiday meal that would make Rachael Ray greener than the Grinch. Then there are the self-inflicted demands of making all of your neighbors’ favorite holiday goodies. I mean, is it really necessary to bake enough rum cake to inebriate the entire neighborhood? And let’s not forget the task of finding the perfect gift to be appreciated for years to come for everyone on your endless shopping list.
As you approach the holidays, does the mantra of “Do Everything Better” versus “Do All Things with Love” ring louder than the silver bells of Christmas in your ears? If so, then perhaps this is the year to adjust your thinking . . . and those unrealistic expectations you’ve placed upon yourself.
I wonder what Christmas would have looked like in the home of Mary and Martha. (If you are unfamiliar with these biblical sisters, you can read their story in Luke10:38-42.) I envision Martha bustling about stringing Christmas lights (which are never a mess of tangles, mind you); preparing dinner invitations complete with handmade calligraphy using ink dyed from her own special blend of herbs and flowers (grown in her meticulously manicured garden, of course); and decking out the stately White Pine with color-coordinated bulbs and bows. Known as the original Martha Stewart of Bethany, her home is the envy of the neighborhood. On the flip side, I envision Mary dancing in the kitchen with mussed hair and flecks of flour sprinkled on her face, surrounded by giggling neighborhood children making a grand mess, but having an even grander time baking sugar cookies alongside their sweet hostess, all the while belting out Christmas carols in their loudest off-key voices.
Watching this scenario unfold in mind’s eye, it’s easy to imagine which of the two sisters I’d prefer to hang with for the afternoon (although I prefer the singing be on-key). Taking it a step further into my own present-day hustle and bustle, I might also ask the question: “Do I want to do everything better, or would I prefer to do everything with love?“
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. — John 15:11-12
Throughout the Christmas season and beyond, we are called to love. Not to constantly look over our shoulders and compare or compete. There’s no value in that, unless you want to cash in on feeling stressed out and overwhelmed and inadequate on so many levels. We are not called to infinite achievement, to keeping a spotless and perfectly decorated home, to being a superstar mom whose children always have matching hats and gloves and mittens and boots (Seriously, simply keeping track of them is enough of a task — both the children and the accessories.), or to any number of things to which you overexert your time and efforts. You know, those things which find you looking for joy in all the wrong places and coming up empty-handed in the end.
Jesus has called us to love, and He has promised that in loving the way He does, we will find joy. And not just “find” joy, but be filled to overflowing with its glorious contents! In addition, His word goes on to tell us that a perfect love like His has the power to expel all fear! It thwarts all our concerns of feeling less than.
The love of Jesus drives out our need to compete with others; instead, drawing us toward the One who makes us enough.
We may fail in being the perfect version of a wife, or mom, or minister, or coworker, or friend, but if we love in all we do, then we really will do all things better. So let’s put away the need for perfection and pull out the one-size-fits all present as we purpose to love others during this Christmas season and throughout the coming year. After all, LOVE is the perfect gift for everyone on your list.
So here’s to rejoicing instead of performing, and to loving above all else. Do you want Christmas to be a competition or a celebration? I say, “Let’s celebrate!” Grab your party hats and confetti and come on over.
. . . On second thought, maybe you better leave the confetti at home, I’m still not quite over the Martha syndrome yet, and that confetti might make me want to break out the vacuum cleaner before the party is over.
How can you make time to purposefully set love as the highest goal this Christmas? What things may you need to allow to go undone (or at least “less” done than in years’ past) in order to make love a priority in your celebration? What are some specific steps you can take toward bringing joy into your heart and into your holiday this year?