Because Life can only be lived a moment at a time.

Just Enough Christmas

At first I placed Santa Claus behind the tree.

Santa always returns to his home under the tree after each ornament has found its proper place.  He's never lacking for company; this year his posse includes Raggedy Ann and Andy, a bear masquerading as Santa and small pillows decorated with the hand prints of our sons.  My Santa has been with me a long time; I can't remember a Christmas without him.

But the years have not been kind to him.  Everything that was once white about him---his beard, the fur on his suit, his boots---is gray, as if he has spent the last fifty-odd years climbing down chimneys in all the places I've lived, from one coast to another.  The hand that once held a bottle of Coca-Cola is empty and the safety pin that holds his black belt together has rusted.

When the time came for Santa's annual appearance this year I decided he was simply too shabby to assume his usual position of prominence.  The ladies from church were coming over for brunch and my sad Santa didn't fit my holiday vision.  I couldn't bear to return him to the storage tote, so I placed him behind the tree, peeking out from the branches.

Mr. Pettit observed my deliberations and insisted that Santa return to his rightful place.  What if he does look the worse for wear?  I can't remember my husband's exact words, but I think the gist of his comments was that this well-worn toy, this relic of my childhood, shouldn't be hidden away.

I think the impulse to hide my stuffed Santa reveals a little too much about my approach to the Christmas season.  I lose my perspective as I strive to create a perfectly joyous and perfectly beautiful Christmas.  When I'm in the throes of Yuletide mania I'm ruled by my to-do list, checking things off in the evening and adding more items in the morning.  I live in the "not enough" zone: Not enough time, not enough energy, not enough creativity.  I wrap up the cycle by berating myself for not placing enough emphasis on the reason for the celebration, Jesus's birthday.  Not enough, never enough.

My Santa Claus doll isn't perfect now, if he ever was.  I'm not either.  The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are special, not magical.  If I focus too much on trying to replicate a greeting card Christmas I'll miss the moments that bring real joy.

Today is Christmas Eve, a day when I usually spend a few minutes conducting a kind of postmortem on how I could have "done" Christmas differently by labeling Christmas cards in November or freezing cookies in October or creating a gift list spreadsheet in January. Not this year.

I'm not going cold turkey---I'll definitely review my Christmas-ing well before 2015 rolls in. But not today.  Today I'll give thanks for the shopper-to-shopper courtesy I've experienced (Yes, Virginia, it does exist), for the closeness I feel to my late mother when I make one of her holiday recipes, for Daddy's nearness when I find just the right gift, for the chance to share the Christmas story with preschoolers at church, for the moments I've shared with my family.

I'm most appreciative of the fact that Jesus welcomes me, scuffed and worn and quirky as I am, to His birthday party, just as He welcomed those scruffy shepherds and their smelly sheep two thousand years ago.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
"O Little Town of Bethlehem"
Lyrics by Phillips Brooks.  Music by Lewis H. Redner

Merry Christmas!

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