I've got a line from a corny, overly-sentimental Christmas play (and an even schmaltzier holiday song from the 80's) stuck in my head. Doncha hate it when that happens?
Usually, I do, too. But this time, when it popped into my head about a week ago, I seized on it, because it fit what I was feeling, exactly.
"Christmas in my heart."
Nothing brought it up. I did not hear it on the radio or see it on stage. It just popped into my head. And stayed there, because I instantly recognized the truth.
It's been many, many years since it was Christmas in my heart.
I used to love Christmas. Joyfully dragged out the decorations. Gleefully planned what to bake. Attended every party. Bought the Christmas sweater AND the jingle bells socks. Secretly hoped to get the solo or a speaking part in the play or concert. Exulted in the fresh snow. Plugged the lights in every time we came home. Set the stockings out on Christmas Eve. Took the traditional family picture on the church platform with the itchy-scratchy matching outfits and the hungry kids squirming in our grips.
Somewhere along the way, Christmas became a hassle instead of holy. A season to be endured rather than celebrated. A mess of expectations to fall short from, generic gifts to be disappointed in, traditions to fail to repeat. The inevitable cold or flu caught from someone who should have been considerate enough to stay home from the party. The snow is pretty but a travel hazard. The kids are sugared-up and high on red food coloring, chins stained from the ubiquitous candy cane drool. No one's helping with the baking, only the eating. That recipe that looked so awesome did not live up to the hype, the time, or the expensive specialty ingredients. The stores are in utter disarray, full of things we don't need and can't afford, the carts all taken by grouchy hostile shoppers.
The husband is stressed because it's final exam season and grades are due (by the way, I need four dozen cookies by tomorrow.) I'm stressed because Christmas carols are a real booger to play. Because I have to play, then sing the solo, then somehow teach Junior Church with two babies on my hips because I'm also scheduled to serve in the nursery. And then evening services aren't cancelled even though it's Christmas Day, because, Baptist.
Also, major interruption of my business. Can't hold events for three weeks because everyone's too busy. Have to do deliveries in the snow. Sales are in the tank. So SICK of Christmas cards. And all this other stuff is clamoring for my attention when I really need to be prepping for the big January sale.
Yes, it's been a long while since Christmas penetrated my heart. I'm trying to remember the last time I was carried away by the candlelight and the carols. When did the ancient truth of the Nativity prophecies come true last move me? When did I last feel that quiet thought, "This. THIS is Christmas?" I don't recall. It appeared fewer and fewer times until it was once a year, and then not at all.
I've held Christmas at bay--on purpose. Scared to let it touch me, change me. I've endured it, breathed a sigh of relief when it was over, packed it all up and gone back to normal.
This year, when I long for Christmas, when I'm ready and willing to feel it, it hasn't appeared.
As if it finally gave up on me, knowing it wasn't welcome. Perhaps I have quenched the spirit too many times. And it's only in the absence of it that I realize what I have done, what I am missing. So the line from the play becomes a prayer. Please. Make it Christmas in my heart.
I listen to the school programs, the dinner theater, the message series, the choir specials. Please. Allow me to regain Christmas in my heart.
I bake the cookies, donate online, scout out the perfect presents, craft the cards. Please. Let there be Christmas in my heart once again.
It's not come, yet, but it will. Come, Thou long-expected Jesus!
Once we waited for You to appear in Bethlehem in a stable behind a busy inn. Now I wait for You to show Yourself again amongst the humble things and ordinary people.
And at long last, once more, it will be Christmas in my heart.