A Weary Woman's Guide to Making Christmas Magical {And Maybe the Best News for This Season}

Four years ago, I learned the meaning of Christmas.

We lived in a one bedroom apartment at the time. Addy was four, and Jed was eighteen months. Addy’s bed was in a small bonus space off the kitchen, and Jed slept in our walk-in closet.

Mike had just completed police academy and was in the hiring process with a few different agencies. We were just waiting and hoping for an official job offer.

A year prior, Mike had taken a job that was less pay but allowed him to attend the academy. Our finances had been tight before the job change. But the year he was in academy was so tight our purse strings stretching across our bills might have sounded like the brakes of freight train screeching to a halt.

It wasn’t just the finances. The finances were just the glaring reminder that we weren’t enough. We didn’t have enough.

I was in this season of motherhood where I felt stretched thin and lacking. I wanted to give my kids the world, but I couldn’t even keep my apartment clean. I wanted to raise up warriors-for-Christ, but I had no idea how to tame their wild defiance.

Christmas was coming, and I was so tired, and I had no money to spend on presents.

I have always loved the Christmas season, but when you become a parent, Christmas suddenly comes with a load of pressure to make memories and create traditions. It means picking out a fresh tree, gingerbread houses, deciding whether or not to mention Santa, light parades, elf on the shelf, salt dough ornaments, sugar cookies, Christmas movies, advent devotionals, and buying the right number of gifts without spoiling. Guys, it’s a lot. And it’s all good stuff. But all it did was overwhelm this tired mother.

It felt like I was about to fail miserably. My kids were going to miss the magic of it all, and I was going to ruin their childhood.

All I wanted for Christmas was to see two pajama-clad kids, hair alive with bed head, step out into the living room and watch their eyes brighten with the wonder of Christmas morning. I wanted the squeals, the anticipation, and the “Mom! Look at THIIIIS!!!” All those noises, all that delight, somehow it would translate in my ears to: “Mom, you did good. I know you love me.”

But I had a hand-me-down 3 foot tree and a grand total of five presents (two of which were for our youngest brothers) to put under that tree. That was it.

_____

That was the year I had turned on Josh Groban’s “O Holy Night” while I set out to clean my house. Addy began running through the apartment turning off the lights. She begged me to light every candle. So I did. We twirled through the living room. I picked up Jed, and he leaned his head back into the centripetal force as I spun him around. We shattered the dim holy glow with our laughter and our loud singing. Addy declared it her favorite song of all time, and I knew it was worship.

I couldn’t have planned it out if I wanted to. All I had to do was set down my to-do list and be present. That moment remains one of my most favorite memories to date. One of those times where you just know: This is it. I’m doing it. And God is right here with us.

_____

That was the year I called up my in-laws and asked to borrow all the string lights they weren’t using. While the kids dreamt of what they might awake to, Mike and I set to work, untangling cords, climbing chairs, hooking lights around the room.

I remember stepping back to admire our work, holding the arm of my husband. My face was wet with tears. Small tree, a few presents, and light glittered all over the room.

I had reached in and scraped the bottom so I could pull out everything I had. It wasn’t much. But if I have ever seen a room lit up with love, it was then.

_____

This year, as I am parenting a toddler again (and feeling so tired and so behind), I keep thinking about Mary.

How the mother of the Christ-King was simple and humble. How she gave birth in a small town far from home. How there was no room for her. How the nursery of the first-born Messiah was earth and straw and the smell of livestock. How Mary must have felt thrust into motherhood, wholly unprepared and a bit too young.

I keep thinking how Mary must have looked at that manger, primitive and plain, with tears in her eyes for all she longed to give her baby but couldn’t. How she must have fluffed straw more gingerly than she ever had before in her life and lined that manger into the best cradle she could muster.

I’m struck by the fact that of all the women, of all the circumstances—this was exactly what God chose.

It’s like God is gently whispering through this story to weary mothers everywhere: If what Mary had was enough, what you have is enough too.

Mary made Christmas where she found Christmas. It came to her. And she was caught up in the wonder of it. I know because Luke says: “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (2:19, NASB).

She was struck by profound grace. She didn’t have much to give, but it wasn’t about what she could give the Savior. It's about what He gave mankind.

Listen, dear weary momma, Christ came through a mother—humble and ordinary. He came in the midst of frustrating government circumstances. He came to a lowly town and slept in an animal trough.

It’s like God wanted to make it abundantly clear: it’s not about what you can give. It’s not about decorations or sugar cookies or piles of presents. It's not even about family traditions or making memories. 

Really, all that stuff is chaff. It's the shell that covers the real kernel. It serves a purpose; it protects the kernel while it grows, but it's not what lasts forever.

It’s that God so loved you and your family, that He reached down and scraped the very bottom so that He could give everything He has to offer—His Son—Immanuel. And through Him, His Kingdom.

Whether you prepare the way with gingerbread and Christmas carols, He is still coming.

He is still coming. And He is already here.

He is with you, and that really is best Christmas news ever.

 

Raise your hand if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed this Christmas season. {And maybe tell me you are raising your hand so I can offer a solidarity fist bump and then keep you in my prayers.}

 

By Grace,

Amanda Conquers

 

Sharing in this beautiful community of storytellers: