“let every heart prepare him room”Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World”
It’s two weeks until Christmas, and despite all of my best-intentioned preparation plans, I’ve crossed off very few items on my list of things to do. I suspect I’m not alone in this mid-December Saturday morning realization.
The refrains are almost reflexive.
“Things have been so crazy. Where has the time gone?”
“I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner. I’ve been so busy.”
“Work has been consuming all my time trying to get things done before year-end.”
Every year about this time I start to turn my thoughts to what I want to accomplish or things I want to do differently in the new year. In fact, thinking about that might actually be part of the reason why I don’t get the more immediate things I’d like to do done! Nevertheless, one of the things I’d like to focus on in 2022 is acknowledging that when I prioritize one thing, I de-prioritize another. Everyone is busy. Everyone wishes we had more hours in the day, more energy, more time. It’s the universal leveler – we all have the same exact 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. Why then, do some people seem to make so much more efficient and effective time management decisions than others?
And so, while this could turn into a blog post about calendars and planners and apps to use to help with organization, it won’t. There are plenty of those kinds of articles and advertisements all over the internet, and I’ll probably read at least 30 of them before the year ends. But that isn’t what I’m focusing on this morning.
Why do we tend to get overwhelmed and overscheduled and overstimulated this time of year? In my case, I think it’s because in an ever-changing, more secular, more mass-produced world, I want to do my best to keep my memories and traditions around Thanksgiving and Christmas alive, regardless how busy or complicated “regular life” is. I’m not dogmatic about it – I’m open to new recipes and different plans and all of that. But there are a few things I don’t like to skip. Decorating the house, making sure the tree is decorated and lit early enough in December to have the time to enjoy it. I like to get the Christmas dishes out and start to use them in the days prior to Christmas dinner for the same reason.
One activity I have always loved is to make tons of different kinds of Christmas cookies and treats, and put beautiful trays and boxes of them together to share with family and friends, coworkers, customers, the vet, the mailman, the delivery drivers. That hasn’t happened yet. Between thinking about dieting and starting a new job and some other activities that are happening, I was starting to think, as recently as yesterday afternoon, that maybe I’d just skip that for this year. I mean really, who needs more sugar? Who even does that anymore? No one will notice, and maybe I’ll try to be more organized next year and do it then.
But last night, out of the blue, I got a text message from my youngest niece, who is now a freshman in college. She and her family are coming to visit for Christmas.
“Do you remember those hot chocolate and egg nog cookie cups that you made the year we had the ladies party in Austin?”
Indeed I do. But how does she? That party was years ago and, to be honest, those cookies were a huge pain in the ass and not even the best tasting of all the things we made. But none of that matters. What matters is the memories we have made over the years and the tradition our family has of making special treats that become part of the anticipation of spending time together. What matters is that this is an activity that three generations of us can share. The fancy trays and boxes probably won’t happen, but the conversation and laughter and continuing to make memories will. The memories and traditions will then become the next generation’s to share with their families when that time comes.
So, rather than turning every evening this next week into a whirling dervish of activity, trying to get a lot of baking and candy-making done, that I hoped to do last week, in order to get all those trays finished and delivered out of some self-imposed sense of obligation to people who are expecting nothing of the kind, I’ll focus instead on all the other things I can do to truly “prepare him room” in the spirit of the season. I’ll give my best effort and concentration to my new job this week, as it’s the unofficial last business week of the year. I’ll start to get my recipes together and make sure we have the ingredients we need for the coming weeks. We’ll finish the house decorations and spend some quality time with our local friends, who we won’t see over the holiday since they’ll be spending time with their families just as we will.
And then, when my nieces and nephews and sister and brother-in-law arrive and join my mom, my husband, and me a few days before Christmas, we’ll be ready. Before too long, the kitchen countertop will be awash in flour and colored sugar, the house will smell amazing. We’ll have hot chocolate and cider even if it’s 80 degrees outside. Christmas music will play. There will almost certainly be dancing and goofiness will abound.
And when I hear the lines in “Joy to the World”, I’ll know that my still undone list of things to do doesn’t matter. Making room for the love and laughter and joy that happens as we spend time together – and being mindful and grateful for that time – is how we truly prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. I’m preparing room now for a glorious arrival in a few days. The fewer expectations we place on ourselves or others, the more room we have for the unplanned, unexpected, glorious surprises He has in store for all of us.