Ah yes, it’s that time of year again when we are all expected to be filled with joy. It’s Christmas time. For many of us, just thinking of the season makes our blood pressure rise. And why is it that we seldom make it through the season without some sort of calamity?
A couple of years ago, two days after my wife and I put up our tree, we heard a crashing noise from the front of the house. All of the needles had fallen off our tree sending our ornaments smashing to the floor. The cooperation it had taken to select the tree, tote it home, string the lights and decorate it had already pushed us to our friendly limits. Now, we had to do it all over again—with smiles on our faces.
But that’s not half as bad as our friend whose tree stand leaked and ruined her floor.
In the grand scheme of things, what happened to us wasn’t a big deal, but it certainly clashed with our vision of a warm and cheerful holiday season.
Christmastime comes with so many expectations, most of them stemming from our childhood. Many people find themselves striving for perfection that simply is not attainable. The Christmas tree must be just right. The dinner menu must include all the traditional courses, even if it means the cook is stuck in the kitchen for days on end. And the children’s presents must be exactly what they asked Santa to bring them. No one should feel especially sad about a family member or friend who has died or is ill. And of course, no one will argue, or drink too much “nog,” or spend too much money, or make a big mess, or act like a fool. All the children and dogs will get along like the little angels they are.
It’s a perfectly jolly time of year.
Yet when I look back over my lifetime of Christmases, it’s the things that went astray that I smile about the most. It’s the unplanned performances during the Christmas pageant that makes me laugh. The one little kid who sings louder and prouder and more off-key than the others.
One year Sullivan, our Bernese mountain dog, cleared the room during a party, after he had apparently eaten an entire wheel of Brie. We still laugh about that.
It’s watching people open gifts they weren’t intended to get. Oops.
It’s sharing old stories, and catching up on news with family and friends.
That’s what really makes Christmas. This year let’s allow ourselves a little more elbow room. Let’s quit trying to make everything just right to the point of exhaustion. It doesn’t matter if the decorations, food and presents are perfect. To be honest, I can’t remember what I’ve eaten from one year to the next. All I know is that Christmas, like life, is never perfect. And it’s never healthy to expect it to be.
Every year I look forward to the children from Perea, the preschool run by the Church Health Center, stopping by to sing Christmas carols. Hearing them sing reminds me why life is good.