Christmastime is here again. Long gone are the visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. They’ve been replaced with decorating, party planning and shopping for gifts. I’ll admit it, sometimes I begin to feel more like a scrooge than a santa with all of the demands being placed on me around this season. But wait a minute, just who is placing these demands on me, or is it all self-inflicted? This is just one of the questions going through my mind this year.
Since JF and I have started to simplify our life, Christmas is taking on a new meaning this year and I’m not taking for granted things I used to do before. Our working definition of simplicity is “eliminating the excess to leave room for excellence” and what better time of year to do that than the season of Santa. But is that really what we think Christmas has come to? Are ‘minimalists’ better than other people, who are hoping to bring joy to their family and friends by expressing their love through gifts? Of course not.
We all want the same things at Christmastime. Peace. Joy. Love. So how does this play out in real-life, where stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St-Nicholas soon will be there (bearing an iPad, hopefully)?
When expectations mount, tensions rise. I’m trying to analyze my expectations over Christmas. Expectations of myself (to be the perfect host, to give the right gifts); and expectations of others (family we will visit, friends we will host). By relinquishing the idea of perfection and attempting to live up to a fictitious expectation, I am destined to lose peace in my life. Let the season be a time to slow down and show grace to ourselves and others while fully enjoying friends and family.
What brings me the most joy? Giving to others. Why am I suddenly facing these moral dilemmas surrounding the idea of giving and receiving gifts during a season notorious for doing so? Because I’ve vilified gifts. I’ve seen “stuff” as the enemy to conquer in my home and gifts seem to contradict that mission. But they don’t. I’ll say it again, gifts are not the problem. Gifts are an expression of our affection for others, and gifts, by their nature, do not demand reciprocation. I’m looking to make, or buy, gifts that will give joy to all who are involved in the process. Whether it’s the artisan I buy the gift from or the person I give the gift to, I am hoping to keep the joy of giving at the heart of it, rather than just aiming to cross another name off an ever-growing list.
Love is more than a feeling. Sorry, Hallmark. No ooey-gooey poems will tell you that. Love means giving your time when you have little to spare. Love means doing what you can during the holidays to bring a smile to someone else’s face, even if it makes you a little more tired in the process. Love isn’t a martyr, but it is a sacrifice of self.
Peace. Joy. Love. Seemingly simple words that take a lifetime to live out. Let this Christmas be a time to practice them in your own life. For us, no practice can bring these three things except the person of Christmas, Christ. By centring our heart first and our actions second around Christ we hope to be able to experience and share these three elements and have a more simple and satisfying season.