With the reason for the season (bourbon and presents, duh) quickly descending upon us, I’d like to take a moment to address the Women of Pre-Christmas. You know those women. You were likely birthed by one and are currently married to another. Maybe, like me, you count yourself among our ranks. We stand as the doers of the holiday season. We make sure our Pintrest boards are updated with all of the rustic, yet festive decor our brains can stand. We judge people who are just now starting to shop for gifts (don’t they have a Zulily account?). The baking of pies, dressing of children, buying of gifts, tablescaping of tables, and entertaining of people falls almost squarely on us.
We all know how helpful your husband is. But let’s face it – even in the most egalitarian, NPR-listening relationships, the mothers are almost always the ones who think of everything to shove into this Season of Joy. Typically, we are the ones who attempt to dress toddlers in matching jumpers for another failed attempt at the cutest Christmas card ever. We are the ones who thought it would be a great idea to have a”vintage” themed tree. And we are the ones who attempt to bake the winning cookie recipe for Cooks Illustrated magazine. Twice. This time of year can feel like our army of berry-colored dresses and black patent heels is solely making Christmas happen. And it can feel hard. And tiresome.
Recently, I attended a class at our church about re-thinking Advent (the season before Christmas) geared specifically at parents. In a moment of total honesty one of my fellow mothers blurted out, “You just feel like you should do all of this stuff at Christmas.” It was at that moment that I fought back the urge to share my favorite AA-ism, “Don’t ‘should’ all over yourself.” Instead, and likely because law/grace never seems to be far from my mind I replied, “Exactly. It’s the cultural legalism of Christmas.”
This is always the point in Mbird pieces where I wish I could offer all of the helpful suggestions the church has. Unfortunately, I can’t. I know all about the Wiseman Gifts Program (your kid only gets 3 presents, which by the way, I would have killed my mom), the Advent Conspiracy, and the Jesse Tree. These are not really answers. They are just more stuff for Mom to do or explain. And sermons during Advent (that is, pre-Christmas) are literally the worst offenders. All too often the preacher (a dude) gets up to preach to people in the pews (many of whom are ladies) about how “we” do too much at Christmas. While culture may offer us a legalism of Christmas that involves overspending and overindulging, the church seems to sell its own kind of legalism: the season before Christmas should be holy, quiet, and deeply meaningful. Also, you should feel really bad if you are not providing that for your family. The thing is, I do not have some grand suggestion for helping the plight of the Women of Pre-Christmas. As I count myself among their ranks, I feel like I am too far in the trenches to be objective. And really, any suggestion I could make will only add to our to-do list or to our sense of spiritual guilt. No thanks.
What I can offer you is a clip from Family Guy. I know, I know, it’s sexist. But it is also incredibly insightful at odd moments. In the clip below the mother of the house, Lois, has hit her holiday cheer limit. And she loses it. Over paper towels. Feel familiar? In one of the greatest lines of frustration ever written she pronounces to her family:
You all think Christmas just happens. You think all this goodwill just falls from the freakin’ sky? Well, it doesn’t! It falls out of my holly jolly butt! So you can cook your own damn turkey. Wrap your own damn presents. And hey, while you’re at it, you can all ride a one horse open sleigh to hell!
I’ve got to say that I think Family Guy is doing some truth-telling that the church (and the culture) often shies away from. The collective pressure of the “should” can be so untenable that we Women of Pre-Christmas end up shooting Christmas in the foot. We can feel so burdened by the obligations of our weary minds that we turn on those we love the most.
So in the spirit of Linus, here’s your ‘lights please’ moment: God came among us in the person of Jesus Christ. No amount of shopping will improve upon that occurrence. And no number of family singalongs of “Silent Night” will do the job either. So, ladies (and those rare gents) make your Advent Calendars on a sewing machine. Go overboard on the trinkets for your kid’s stocking. And for the love of everything holy, haul out your Kentucky Memaw’s homemade Eggnog recipe. I am right there with you. But when your blood pressure starts to rise about which cookie to make for Santa or how many nativity sets to display on the mantle, remember that we are all walking with sin sick souls. And thank God that sweet Jesus, our Great Physician, came to heal us forever.
Christmas is already perfect. It always has been. Christ came among us in the direst of circumstances to save us from ourselves. We can do nothing to improve upon such beautiful perfection. What a relief.