An article I wrote for the Laity Lodge Family Camp's December newsletter. A huge thanks to Jessica for editing ~ you put a pretty frame around my words!
I glanced across the den at our measly little Christmas tree, the
sparse, glittery branches suspending a handful of ornaments. This
gently-used display piece I’d bought from a gift shop was small enough
to fit on a side table, the only piece of furniture in our bare living
Here we were, the week before
Christmas, and my home looked like it had been through a tornado. The
exciting part was that we were going through a remodel. The unnerving
part was that we were going through a remodel. Smack-dab in the middle
of the holiday season, our home was anything but cozy and Christmassy.
All of our living room furniture sat stacked like puzzle pieces in a
back room, and gaping holes in the sheetrock greeted those who entered
our living areas. Because we were re-doing most of the downstairs
floors, our piano remained wedged in the entryway, blocking passage to
and from the front door. Tractors and trucks morphed both our back and
front yards into gargantuan mud pits, which kept our floors covered in
the footprints and paw prints of our four kids and three dogs.
This wasn’t my favorite way to spend
the holidays, in a messy, crazy home. Our lack of order and routine
made me fear that Christmas would simply pass our family by. I envied my
friends as they decorated their homes, shopped for and wrapped gifts,
and baked cookies with their children in clean, functioning kitchens.
As my discontentment grew, I knew I
had to make a choice: either forge through the December days making our
Christmas “normal” by enforcing unrealistic traditions, or hold those
traditions in an open hand and take pressure off of our already
Neither option sounded fun.
I wanted to somehow—even in a
construction zone—create an atmosphere for anticipating Jesus’ Coming. I
also desired to actually engage my family during the Advent season and
spend time together.
It turned out we could accomplish
both of these even without living room furniture or a Nativity set. Each
Sunday evening, we gathered on a quilt on the den floor with hot cocoa
and took turns reading our Advent book. Those few candlelit moments drew
us away from the mess and the mud and into the reality that Christ our
Savior came into the world.
We looked at our calendar and set
aside a few chunks of time for making a gingerbread house, driving
around town looking at Christmas lights, and baking almond brittle for
neighbors and teachers. The state of our home actually prompted us to
look outward toward the needs of others, and we got to spend an evening
with another family singing carols and visiting with precious folks at a
I don’t think my kids missed a beat.
We, for the most part, turned the calendar page to January without
regrets. In the simplifying, we created a margin to enjoy each other,
friends, and extended family, and to welcome Christ into our home.
This year we will enter the holidays
with a more organized, peaceful home. But we are already reminded that
moves, health issues, job changes, weddings, funerals, and the needs of
friends will always challenge our holiday plans. Something will always
try to diminish our joy and peace. But it doesn’t have to. Jesus was
born in a dusty manger, not in a clean, decorated home. And isn’t that
the point? He is the atmosphere. He is the season. He is Christmas.
Jesus still comes to our homes, dust and all.