Editor’s note: I wanted to post this in time for Christmas, but I was busy preparing to move and celebrating Christmas with my children (that’s what this blog post is about).
“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the LORD will be my God.” ~Genesis 28:20-21
I was determined not to let Christmas be swallowed up in our preparations to move to a new home. We’ve had our home on the market since last March, and God brought a buyer…less than two weeks before Christmas. What timing! Even still, wasn’t this an occasion to celebrate?
Absolutely, but with less than five full weeks from the time an offer was made on our house to the scheduled closing date on January 13, I knew that it would be far too easy to let Christmas be devoid of its important purpose—giving us joy and hope and peace—and instead let this festive event drown in the demands of packing, and pitching and cleaning and filling out paperwork.
So, to guard our hearts and our time against letting this happen, I made myself a list of what I wanted our Christmas to be. I’m a TO DO list kind of a person, so I thought this might actually help me celebrate more.
My Christmas checklist?
1. Bake cookies for neighbors & service people (mail carrier, trash man, UPS delivery guy, etc.)
2. Play Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Michael W. Smith, Keith & Kristyn Getty & other Christmas music LOUDLY
3. Make stuffing, cranberry sauce & pie for Christmas dinner tomorrow
4. Sing Christmas carols with all our hearts!
5. Write cards & wrap more presents
6. Hug & kiss my kids (do this multiple times)!
7. Pack boxes for the upcoming move (interspersed among the celebration helps appease my guilty conscience about the amount that needs to be done)
8. Light candles around the house
9. Wish Peter could be here with us (Peter is a very special, godly man God has brought into my life!)
10. Work on address changes
11. Share 20 years of memories of being in this home together; have tissues on hand
12. Read Luke 2 & thank God for sending us Jesus!
14. Nibble on yummy snacks as we prepare meals for the weekend together (me and my children); be sure to include cookie dough!
15. Attend a 10pm-midnight liturgical Christmas Eve service filled with Christmas music and carols, with Bethany, Ben & his family
16. Be still & know that He is God – O, come, let us adore Him!
Thinking about Christmas and moving in the same period of time reminded me of another instance when a family had to inconveniently relocate for a season during Christmas time. Because of Caesar’s decree that every citizen should be taxed, Mary and Joseph had to pack up for a several days’ journey away from home and travel almost a hundred miles to be counted in the census.
Having to make this slow, uncomfortable voyage riding a donkey over miles and miles of difficult terrain, Mary, who was about to give birth (no doctor today would let a woman make this kind of trip a week or so away from her due date!) could easily and understandably have lost the joy of what she was about to receive, a newborn son. And not just any son, but God’s Son, the promised One, the Savior of the world.
Joseph, like Mary, had to make the same grueling journey, but he didn’t even have a donkey to ride on. He had to walk the 80 miles and care for Mary all the way. The details of making the trip, the difficulties along the way, the exhaustion, the discomfort, the possible hunger and thirst, and the lack of good sleep in your own comfortable bed all could have contributed to drowning out the celebration of their special first Christmas, the first in the history of the world.
No mention is made of what Joseph and Mary said to each other as they made the trip. It’s all speculation as to what their demeanor was, how they responded to their circumstances and what they really thought about all this, but I think we can take clues from how Mary responded with humble obedience when the angel told her she was to bring forth a son, the Son of the Most High.
And Mary said,
“My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. ~Luke 1:46-49
Furthermore, Mary rejoiced in God’s fulfillment of His promise to “fill the hungry with good things.” Jesus, the Messiah, is the promise of God to all those who thirst and hunger, to those who long for the salvation of the LORD. She clearly understood this, and I believe it motivated her to not miss the celebration, even though she was caught up in the throes of a challenging ‘move,’ the difficult journey to Christmas.
And what about my Christmas checklist? By God’s grace, I was able to accomplish everything I set out to do, and then some. I didn’t want to miss the celebration awaiting us because of our challenging journey, that of moving to our new house after being in this one for over 20 years.
We’re still packing boxes every day—nine days and counting to settlement date—and believe me, the voyage is almost as grueling for us (with obstacles and hurdles all along the way) as it was for Joseph and Mary. Yet the same promise that God gave them He gives to me and my children and all who hunger and thirst for the One who satisfies us with good things. Now, that is truly worth celebrating!