Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale
I’ve spent the last few days decorating the house for Christmas. I’m not quite finished, but I have completed my annual trek through the three emotional levels of the Candy Cane forest of Christmas decorating. The first stage is the enthusiastic “Oh boy! Can’t wait to start!” Then, as the contents of countless tubs of Christmas decorations are strewn about the house, I rapidly decline into the dark and existential “Why do I do this? What does a blown glass raccoon have to do with the birth of Christ?” However, I keep chugging along, driven by the glimmering hope of the final “One more tree to go” level.
Each year I begin by hanging up the advent calendar and arranging the crèche. Our manger scene is quite humble, consisting of subdued gray and blue salt-glazed pottery figures and a simple wooden stable. I searched many years for the right one. There are many beautiful sets out there, but none of them were a fit. When I am creating, I get a little “ping,” for lack of a better word, when I know something is right, whether it’s the way a ribbon drapes or how candles are arranged on a table. When I spotted this understated set, there was the ping. We have treasured the rustic display for many years since.
This year was a little different, momentarily a little sad, because as I was bringing in the carefully bubble wrapped pieces, I dropped one of the wise men. I could tell by the muffled pop it made on contact with the floor, that it had broken – into many pieces. I gingerly opened the plastic on the kitchen counter, and surveying the shattered king, I mourned a little. But, then I remembered that it came from Eldreth Pottery. When I called, a warm and friendly voice answered and after a brief pause on hold, reported back that they did indeed still have a wise man in a blue pillbox hat, and would send him right out.
I happily set about arranging the scene on our dining room table, wanting it to be the center of our celebration. When I showed it to my husband as he arrived home from work, I informed him that the wise man in the blue pillbox hat was on a short sabbatical.
But, as I worked, I found myself revisiting “Why do I do this?” Kids are starving, wars are raging, this all seems so frivolous and pointless. I get the gift giving and I really enjoy that aspect of Christmas. It is human nature, wanting to give tokens of love and affection to one another. The feasting is a celebration, a coming together to share our blessings, and rejoice over the birth of a tiny baby who would change the course of history.
So, what does Christmas really have to do with the glitter, the lights, and the tinsel, I often wonder while tying a bow or fluffing some greenery. Perhaps we dress the house in party clothes in anticipation of the celebration to come. I come down in the middle of the Christmas decorators out there, doing more than some, less than others. As we are entering a time of our lives when many of the things we once prized don’t seem to matter quite as much, I don't buy decorations like I used to. But, there are still a lot of glitzy holiday trappings that have accumulated over the years, and I still enjoy finding the perfect place for each one. It’s never the same from year to year, Warm and rustic on the family room mantle, cool and elegant in the living room . . . I stop when I run out of stuff.
I’m not trying to impress anyone – I will be honest – I do it for me. Most of the time I’m too busy to make much time for creativity. This is a chance to use my talents. This is what I do best, making things special – it's a gift I have received and it's also mine to give .