In our home, we have been happily working our way toward the day of celebration for Christ’s birthday. Or so I thought.

We have our tree and home decorated – mostly handmade stuff this year, to keep things somewhat simpler, and to help keep our focus on the reason for the season.

We’ve been busily making gifts to give away, so we are practicing being generous with others, as Christ taught us to give.

The number of handmade ornaments on our tree continues to grow as we work our way through our Advent study.

The freezer, containers and counters are full of baked goods to share. We read every day about the reason for why all these decorations, gifts, food, celebration, and general festivity, focusing on Christ coming down as a humble baby, to become our Saviour and King.

And yet, something is not quite right. I had my suspicions. But it wasn’t until this morning, when I read this post from Kris at Always Alleluia, that I realized what was wrong. It hit me like a Mack truck carrying a load of bricks. And I was filled with shame.

On the outside, things look great. But on the inside, they’re dirtier than the track Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem. While my intentions have been good, the execution has been, well, nearly fatal.

You see, this is the first year that I have had a desire for my kids to understand what Christmas is about. Perhaps it has to do with, over the past year, seeing how much they are starting to “get it” and put things together, through our time spent studying God’s word. Or the frustration of constantly hearing “PRESENTS!!” anytime someone mentions Christmas.

Christ is the most important part, the only reason we have CHRISTmas in the first place, and I wanted them to understand, as much as their 6, 4 and 2 year old minds and hearts can.

But in my urgent desire for them to get it, I have lost the gentle humility and awe of Mary as she obediently offered herself as a servant to her Lord. I have forgotten the love and grace of Joseph as he willing accepted his position as the Saviour’s earthly father and Mary’s husband. I have ignored the wonder of the angel’s message of GOOD NEWS. And I have denied the shepherds’ joy and the wise men’s determination to drop everything and seeking to worship this child who has been proclaimed the Light of the World, the Lamb of God.

Instead, I’ve been determined to get and do it right, a military general, forcing the execution of what began as good intentions, and has turned into drills, anger and frustration.

How can I possibly teach and show my children Christ when I am yelling and annoyed at the cleanup behind the tree, mess of baking, craft supplies all over the house from making gifts and advent ornaments, rushing our school to get out and run errands,and constantly in a mood sour enough to curdle milk?

I wanted this to be simple. Focused. Meaningful. All about Christ.

But in the process of TRYING so hard, it has kind of failed.

Thankfully, our God is a God who can redeem any situation. This is something I have had to learn and see over and over again. And I am truly grateful that he does not leave us in our messes to clean up after ourselves, but he comes alongside and gently whispers “Be still and I will show you the way”.

Too much on my plate = no time to be still and know that HE IS GOD. Christmas is still Christmas, no matter what you DO. Christ still came to teach us how to be like him, to save us from our sins. In my attempts to get my children to not focus on PRESENTS at Christmas, I neglected to teach and show them that we need to make way for the King – in our day to day and our hearts.

The important thing here isn’t how many times you read the story of Jesus’ birth, or if you’ve memorized it, know all the details, important dates, names, etc. The important thing isn’t how many people you serve and give gifts to, or even giving up presents this time around.

The important thing – THE MOST IMPORTANT THING – is to enter into God’s PRESENCE to worship and for Christ to be at the center of it all.

So, with God’s grace, we’re starting over. We are still doing our Advent crafts and study, but I’m praying that God will give me patience to love and show grace to the kids when they’re not following the instructions just so and getting the paint all over the table.

We aren’t going to take down our Christmas decorations, but next year, I pray I will have less of a focus on how our house looks, and more on creating meaningful time to spend with my children – and the condition of our hearts.

We are still going to get presents on Christmas morning – but I’m not going to worry about turning their focus OFF presents (I think that is completely impossible anyway :D), and instead I am going to continue to remind them of God’s gift to us.

I am asking God to change my heart, to give me patience and love, generosity, grace, to be still, to listen, to worship, to get my own agenda out of the way, and to make way for the King.

 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. ~ Luke 2:19

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