‘Tis the season to figure out how to cram the most wonderful time of the year into our already jammed-packed lives. Between the tree that needs topping, gifts that need buying, cards that need mailing and cookies that need baking, I am not sure I have time to be as jolly as an elf.
Poor baby Jesus; he didn’t even make that list did he? No, we don’t crowd in front of churches during the season to get a glimpse of our Savior; we are too tired from waiting in line during the wee hours of the night on Black Friday.
Admittedly on Christmas day things are a bit different. There are lines of people waiting to get a coveted seat during the suddenly standing-room only service. (I know because I can’t remember the last time I got to sit in a pew on Christmas). Still, it pales in comparison to the throngs that zig-zag through shopping malls to get their picture taken with a mere mortal dressed in red faux-fur with a face you couldn’t even identify in a mug shot because of the snowy white hair that conceals it. Bah, Humbug!
I realize I sound like I have lost the spirit of Christmas. On the contrary, I found it, and in the most unlikely of places – South Beach. Yes, in Miami I became merry and bright by discovering the best way to remember the reason for the season – forget about everything.
A girlfriend called and invited me to join her and another friend in South Florida. I asked her when, and she said, we would leave that evening.
I laughed at her, and not with a hearty ho, ho, ho either — but more ha, ha, ha-ve you lost your mind? After all, I am not that girl who can just throw her bikini in her beach bag, and drive off into the sunset. First of all, my night vision is terrible, and my swim wear has since traded places with my sweats in my seasonal closet organizational system. Not to mention, I am a mother with a husband and children to consider.
Besides, I can’t think of a worse time for me to drop everything and indulge in a decadent December dalliance. My to-do list is as long as Santa’s naughty and nice list put together, and not just with Christmas trappings (oops, I mean trimmings), but with the day to day responsibilities of my life.
Who just gets up and walks away? I did. (Insert big, happy smile here.) With the encouragement of my husband, a little last-minute schedule coordination and an over-packed suitcase, I left the Christmas chaos for the bliss of the beach. I figured if the Elf on the Shelf can fly back to the North Pole every night to tattle on my kids, I could indulge in a little getaway of my own.
Sitting on the beach in the balmy, warm air I felt about as far from the North Pole as I possibly could, and it was heavenly. I couldn’t get over the fact that I was so far south from Santa — more because of my state of mind than my location. I felt like the boy in the Polar Express, who got to open the first gift of Christmas, only mine wasn’t the sound of a bell, but that of the sea shore.
Retreating from shopping, gift wrapping, and even the merriment of holiday parties allowed me to feel the peace that comes at this time of year, because the peace has nothing to do with those things. I dare say it comes from removing ourselves from them — even if it’s just momentarily. In doing this, I enjoyed the simplicity of seagulls, sand and sun. I was amazed how guilt-free I felt.
My nagging conscience kept reminding me that it was December and that I should be in full-elf mode – but I was too mesmerized by the melodic crash of waves to listen. Besides, who wants to be a scrawny, height-impaired elf anyway?
When I came home, I was happy to see my husband and children, but not so much that long to-do list that clung to me like tinsel on a tree. It was still there, as appealing as a lump of coal – waiting.
There wasn’t much on my list that had to do with God. As much as He should have been at the top of it, He wasn’t. There was too much other stuff competing for my attention. Meanwhile the birthday boy waited patiently for the gift of my time.
God doesn’t advertise with cute little television jingles, and I have yet to receive a catalog of His graces in the mail. He doesn’t send me coupons, or emails with special deals. Yet what he is offering is worth so much more than what we are buying. He isn’t about making the deal. He is the real deal, and ironically He is often overlooked. Talk about getting the shaft on your birthday.
What I learned from slipping away at the last minute is that things can wait. So, let them. Yes, I am telling you to procrastinate this Christmas season. Don’t worry about color-coordinating your tree or finding the perfect gift for the persnickety.
Seriously, it really doesn’t matter. Just go and be with Him in prayer, in silence, in the laughter of your children, in the cardinal that flies by your window. Be with Him.
As I write this, it is a rainy manic-Monday. My husband is out of town, I have an unidentifiable leak in my closet from the adjacent bathroom, there are towers of laundry to fold, and that tattle-tell elf keeps staring at me like he is gloating at all I have yet to do because of my impromptu excursion.
So when I picked my boys up from school today, I decided it was time for another get away. We didn’t go far — just across the parking lot to the church’s adoration chapel. We each took a pew and offered our own silent prayers. It felt as decadent as sitting on the beach in December, even though my focus wasn’t on tiny grains of sand. It was simply on Him – the birth of whom offers salvation and everlasting life in a paradise far removed from here.
I enjoyed my get-away with God so much; I decided to add something else to my December to-do list – time with Him. (Yes, you snarky elf I am going to make my list even longer.) I am going to start a new Christmas tradition by taking my children to adoration every December to spend some time in prayer. Unlike so many other holiday happenings it actually has something to do with the birth of our Savior.
The best part is I don’t have to go away to enjoy the spirit of Christmas, I simply have to go to God and the madness that muddles the meaning dissipates like tiny grains of sand in the vast ocean.