Maybe it was because we have a one-month-old and I feel a little sleep-deprived. Maybe it was because our delightful little toddler had an awful bad cold and we were trying to keep him indoors. But perhaps it had more to do with feeling like I was ‘missing something’ because of everything I wasn’t doing. Whatever the reason, I just wasn’t feeling super-Christmasy.

I half-decorated the house half-heartedly.

I was doing my best to be enthusiastic about the lights and the gifts and the opportunities to spend extra time having fun as a family.

But, to be really honest, Christmas was kind of feeling like a chore list with a serious time constraint.

So we shopped to cross names off the list, I hung the stockings by the fireplace with as much care as I could muster, and we had the Christmas music blaring in our house pretty much all. day. long.

But I couldn’t make it with the Bear to see Santa, even just to take a picture, because the Tank wasn’t well. So Gpa took him. And I couldn’t muster the energy to whip up a batch of cookies as a fun Christmasy activity. I mean… my kitchen floor hasn’t been mopped since before our third child entered this world… who has time for cookies? I have a newborn. So the Bear made cookies at G.C.’s house.

I kept seeing the stories and ideas and lists — other people taking their kids to special places, or watching movies and drinking hot chocolate, looking for lights, painting ornaments…etc., etc., etc.

And I felt like a Christmas failure.


{I loved my Mama’s tree last year…}

Then finally it happened — on the 20th of December at precisely 9 pm, give or take a minute or two, the Hubs and I looked at each other and simultaneously said ‘let’s turn off this music.’

We both sighed.

He finished up what he was working on, and for the first time, I sat still.

It was quiet.

I was quiet.

The baby snoozed softly in my lap.

I opened the Christmas Reading Plan I’d heard about earlier that day.

In the quiet I was reminded about the huge and amazing plan God had all along for saving the world.

Like the words Zechariah said to the miracle baby John, the prophet born to a woman everyone thought was barren:

“You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Luke 1:77-79

That morning light starts in the quiet, in the dark, in the still. On a humble night, in a humble place.

I finally sat still and began to remember.

This is what it’s about.

The Hubs and I spent the next couple of hours just talking and dreaming quietly. How will we communicate this most important message to our boys, our new girl? How will we emphasize the glorious goodness of His Presence — His arrival on earth — in a way that might have a hope of overshadowing the presents that are taking so much of the spotlight?

We talked and dreamed and planned. And in that quiet and still, we remembered the big things, the ones we are distracted from focusing on, because (in my case) I’m too busy worrying about whether we all need to go to see Santa or string lights or hunt gifts or bake cookies. Or mop floors.

Not for a moment will I say anything is inherently wrong with all these Christmas activities — but I will say if the busyness distracts us from the big picture, we might need to refocus the lens of our hearts. Point the camera of our souls in a new direction. Make sure we’re taking the right picture.

The talk about living out Christmas began to challenge us about how we live all year long. One of Ann Voskamp’s children whispered into the dark one night a question — and it has rung in my ears ever since:

If it’s Jesus’ Birthday, why aren’t we giving Him presents?

And if we are going to give Jesus presents, what do you think He wants?

He said one day He’d be back, and that He’d be separating the sheep from the goats. And He would say to the sheep, Come inherit the Kingdom prepared for you… because I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me something to drink, a stranger you invited in, in need of clothing and you clothed me, sick and you cared, in prison and you visited…

And those sheep will say, “Lord, when did we do all that?”

And His reply will be: “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Taking care of the least of these is the gift He is asking from us.

So the funny thing is, when we started talking about how to do Christmas, and how to make it special for our children, how to make it meaningful, how to bring it to Light, we didn’t talk about lights or cookies at all. We weren’t worried about whether or not we made time for Santa’s lap or cocoa.

We started dreaming about how to do things for the least of these.

What about visiting the home for the elderly where your Aunt Jo used to be?

Is there a soup kitchen in Washington? A homeless shelter?

What else could we do?

And what if we got together with friends and started doing it all year long?

And what if we did things we could bring our kids along to?

Our conversation ended because it was late in the evening. But we ended with a new purpose in mind – not to fill these days with more busyness, more things to check off the list, better gift ideas – we ended knowing our gift to Jesus is something we are dedicated to living all year long.

We didn’t beat ourselves up about the year that has passed — knowing in the last 15 months we moved continents, changed jobs, started a business, opened a gallery space, moved homes, started preschool and had a baby. But now, looking forward, let’s start looking out and looking up.

To celebrate that Jesus came, we will live like He’s still here — right in our hearts. Here, showing us His heart — because the morning light from heaven did come, and He is the Light, and He says we should be the light, too.

It took being still and quiet to remember:

This is what it’s about.

This is what makes my soul come alive.

It turns out Christmas spirit wasn’t so hard to find after all — you just need to know where to look for it.