A friend wrote a blog post this morning about how she has had a difficult time feeling Christmasy this year and it has really got me thinking so I decided to jot a few thoughts down here. Like my friend, there have been years when try as I might I struggle to find the Christmas magic that I remember from my childhood or that it seems like everybody talks about. My efforts to do all the Christmas things - look at lights, listen to Christmas music, shop for the perfect presents, wrap presents while watching Christmas movies, bake Christmas goodies, and so on - just don't always do the trick.
The movie "Elf" says that the greatest way to spread Christmas cheer is singing aloud for all to hear. But that doesn't really do it for me either some years.
What really works for me - pretty much every time - is to turn everything off and slow way, way down. I know that it is blasphemy to some - Paul included - when I say that I am not the biggest fan of Christmas music but I find background noise incredibly distracting and because every store you go into during the month of December is constantly playing some version of "Winter Wonderland" or "Home for the Holidays" it just becomes so much noise to me and the thought of listening to even more Christmas music on one of the radio stations that plays nothing but Elvis singing "Blue Christmas" or Burl Ives singing "Holly Jolly Christmas" is just overwhelming for me even when it is just me driving in the car with Clara to run errands.
While I love watching "White Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reinder" each year, they don't help me get into the Christmas spirit nearly as much as when I turn off the Christmas specials on TV and stay inside in a very quiet house and pull out the scriptures to read Luke 2 to myself. For me, the story of the Nativity doesn't need to be acted out with costumes and parts and there doesn't need to be accompanying violin versions of "Silent Night" playing in the background while I read. The feeling of Christmas resides in the words "For unto us a Child is born..." and the story of a new star appearing and humble shepherds going to worship a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
I don't mean to come off as self-righteous or anything by explaining how I can best find the spirit of Christmas. Because I love all of the other parts too (and we have really enjoyed sharing Christmas lights with Clara this year and singing songs about snowmen and reindeer and Santa to her). But sometimes there is so much going on that the hustle and bustle starts making very little sense until I recollect my bearings. And when I pay attention to the genesis of our Christmas celebration, the magic of all the other things that I love about Christmas - the decorated tree, Santa, the yummy foods and even Christmas music - really start to glow in my heart.