Friends, you wouldn’t believe the relief I feel tonight.
My Christmas tree is up, the stockings are hung, and Christmas music is playing in the background.
For years, I’ve looked down my nose at people who listened to Christmas music before Thanksgiving and who put their Christmas tree up before December. I grew up in a very liturgical denomination and Advent has always been sacred to me; therefore, I protected it by refusing to bring the Christmas boxes up out of the basement until December, turning the radio off if Christmas music came on before Advent, and painstakingly ignoring the flashy, gorgeous, tempting Christmas displays in store windows.
This year, I didn’t have the heart to put Christmas off one more day; my 2-year old became contagiously excited about All Things Christmas while at Target today, and I caved. When we got home, I dragged the Christmas tree up from underneath the stairs. I pulled out my collection of Nativity scenes and hung the wreath on the door. We played Christmas music and made a second trip to Target for more Christmas lights. We talked about Baby Jesus and ate Christmas M&Ms.
The relief washed over me. But why?
At first I thought it was because Thanksgiving comes late this year, and my husband’s birthday is the same weekend, which sets me up for Christmas failure because then I am late getting everything ready, and before I know it, Advent is almost over and I feel like I’ve missed it.
But as I thought about it and watched my babies’ joyful faces as they played with the Little People Nativity scene and the Mr. Potato Head Santa Claus, I realized what was truly going on in my heart—this has been a tough year. Filled with hurt and hard and ugly and messiness. The promise of Emmanuel—God with us—is too beautiful and too hope-filled for me to ignore simply because of too many blocks on my calendar. I need something to look forward to. I need something to celebrate. I need to be reminded of where my hope comes from.
So no longer will I roll my eyes at friends posting on Facebook about listening to Christmas music in November. And no longer will I scoff at Christmas lights going up as the Halloween decorations come down. Instead, I will join my 2-year old in his excitement over Baby Jesus and allow the hope Emmanuel offers to fill my spirit. Merry Christmas.