by Kara Laughlin, St. Matthew's Seminarian
There is no room for Christmas in my house right now.
There are no decorations up. They haven’t even come down from the attic. Before they do, our family literally needs to make some room.
Because my mother did some downsizing this year, boxes of childhood papers and books are parked in several rooms, waiting for me to make room in my schedule to look through them.
Books from my classes seem to be stacked on every surface of our library, waiting for me to
make room on the shelves. Soon, there will be packages and gifts for wrapping in that room too. We tend to keep the door closed to that room—especially in December.
But making room for Christmas is challenging. We have so many expectations. We want to give gifts that are exactly what the recipient wants. We want to create magical moments for the children in our lives. We want to have a meal with family or friends so full of joy and warmth that it could slide right into a Hallmark movie. All those desires and expectations—as well-meaning as they are—can make my heart feel pretty crowded.
And those things require a lot of work—there’s the menu to make and the shopping to do, and don’t forget standing in line at the post office to be sure packages get where they need to go. When such opportunities for joy start to feel like burdens, it’s a good sign that I need to get my house in order. If it’s piles of books and papers and packages stacking up, I need to get the physical house in order. And when the to-do list starts to get a little too crowded, and I start to complain, grouchily, about how sick and tired I am of hearing about Jingle Bells and what Mariah Carey wants for Christmas, I know I need to get my spiritual house in order.
There are all kinds of ways to make room in our spirits for Christmas. Often I will sit in the
crowded library, light a candle in the chaos, and just sit in silence for five minutes. Sometimes I take a task that I need to do anyway—like decorating the porch—and decide to do it slowly and gratefully.
Another way I’ve started making room in my spirit has been to make a special playlist for the days leading up to Christmas. These are songs that touch my heart and help me make room for a vision of God’s kingdom. They are songs of longing and of hope, and even when I’m not in the mood for Christmas music, I can listen to the playlist as I make dinner, or as I drive my way through my to-do list, and my heart opens up.
Then, when there’s a little more room in my soul, I begin to realize that the things I really want aren’t quite the magic moments or the scene from a Hallmark movie. I don’t need to give the perfect gift—what I really want is for my friend to feel known and loved. I don’t need my teenagers to tell me they believe in magic—what I really want is to give them opportunities to slow down and feel awe. I don’t need a perfect meal with my family. What I really want is connection, a way to let them know I love them, and to remember the history and values that draw us together.
Perfection is never possible, and outside of one perfect birth two thousand years ago, Christmas is no exception. But those things I really want at Christmastime are possible even if the door to the library stays closed until it’s time for New Year’s resolutions.
If you’d like to check out this year’s Advent playlist, you can find it here:
View all of our Advent Devotionals and Resources:
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