Dec 26, 2010

Out of the Manger and Into the World...

I was going to wait until after New Year's to post this, but some of my Facebook friends have already been commenting about "after-Christmas letdown". Been there, done that! This is something that I originally wrote 8 years ago, and just recently polished it up a bit for my Christian Writer's Group assignment, so it is not in my typical blogging writing style. It hasn't been critiqued yet, but I thought I'd post it anyway. I need the reminder as much as anybody! Just ask my hubby~I was once NOTORIOUS for "after-Christmas letdown". Then I came to realize that I cannot put the Christmas spirit away when the decorations come down. I hope you will be blessed by taking the time to read it.

Out of the Manger and Into the World

I couldn’t believe it happened again. “The Holidays” ~ that favorite time of year ~ were over and the decorations needed to be put away. I did not expect to get depressed this time, something I have struggled with in years past. My husband and I had made a very intentional agreement that we would pace ourselves throughout the Christmas season, not over spend, over decorate, or over do in any way. We were exhausted from the events of the year: a son who graduated from high school and began college; another son, a college senior, who moved back home and then got married; concerns surrounding our four aging parents and a couple prodigal nephews; my husband’s job loss and several months of unemployment; the deaths of several close family members and friends.

So while we didn’t do as much decorating as usual, I still thrilled at getting some of the nostalgic memories out of their boxes in the basement and making our home feel warm and beautiful with the season’s special magic. Instead of baking for three weeks, I baked for three hours one day. It was plenty. We joyed at attending several special Christmas events and having friends and family gather throughout the season. It truly was the most stress-free holiday I could remember.

But something still snapped in me when it was over and I spent the weekend after New Year’s, my traditional time to tear things down, having a gloomy, self-centered pity party. Tears flowed as I carefully wrapped each ornament in tissue paper and packed them into boxes. I felt very alone. My husband long ago gave up trying to console me during these times. We both thought “simplifying” would be the answer, and frankly, I was surprised that I was having this reaction again. I mentioned it to a friend, who promptly sent me an e-mail and included a quote from “Hugs for the Holidays” by John William Smith. It read:

"The birth of Jesus was the birth of hope. Don't let the wonder of that hope disappear with the decorations at the end of the holiday season this year. Follow that hope right out of that manger and into the rest of His life. Watch hope become a man, the man a lamb, and the lamb the Lord who will come for us again. When He comes, we'll look at one another and say, 'There will never be another day like today.' "

I immediately knew this message had been sent straight from God to me. How could I have forgotten so soon? The story of the baby in the manger doesn’t end when we put away our Christmas decorations. No, it has only just begun. The warmth and joy we feel at Christmas is all about hope, and we need to follow that hope right out of that manger and into the rest of the story. Jesus came to bring light to a very sin darkened world. His light always invades the darkness. Even the smallest amount of light in the darkest of rooms can be seen, because that is the nature of light.

As I turned the calendar page to a new year, I realized I had a choice to make. Will I allow after-holiday letdown to overtake me and wallow around in self-pity and hopelessness, or will I let the light of Christ shine in and through me? Will I miss the whole point of the season of hope, or will I follow that baby out of the manger and into a world that desperately needs to see His light?

"Lord Jesus, forgive us for trying to keep you as that sweet baby in the manger. Your Father, and ours, sent you into this dark world with a mission~~to bring us Light and Salvation. Shine your light upon us, and save us especially from the sin of self-absorption. Give us a sense of mission too, and empower us to proclaim the meaning of your coming to a sin darkened world. We look forward to the day when you will come again in power and great glory! In your Name we pray. Amen."


Nellie's Cozy place said...

HI Jacquelyn,
Great post, and you are so right on.
Hope you had a Wonderful Christmas
and now a Happy and Blessed New Year
all while you are taking down your decorations!!
Blessings, Nellie

Rebecca said...

I can't imagine that you'd have to make many changes to this great piece, Jacquelyn!

I'm kind of the "other" way. I'm rather relieved to get back to "normal"... but then, I've always been a little strange :)

Jess said...

Such a precious reminder for me, especially during THIS Christmas!
Funny, during the past four Christmas seasons, I've wondered while packing up my decorations if it was my last Christmas in my cozy Florida home.
I believe this IS the last Christmas here. Don't know how I'll feel when we take all the boxes out to fill them, but I'm so grateful that GOD knows what's in store for us.
Thank you for ALL of your prayers and emails. Your friendship is a great comfort. Blessings~

Jennifer Meybaum said...

My mom (Judy) said: "I've never really gotten a Christmas letdown, but it was good to be reminded about the need to move on from Christmas and go on into the world." Lisa said: "Jacque, keep smiling after you take the Christmas decorations down.... Good to see you last night." 7:28 am Monday

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

A great piece of writing, filled with the hope of the manger rather than the let-down. I, too, used to struggle with letting Christmas go (although I found the decorating, both putting up and taking down, some of the most stressful parts of it... still do). In recent years, however, I find that I sometimes best celebrate the birth of Christ in the months before and after the calendared event. I don't enjoy the pressure of the Christmas hoopla, but I do enjoy some of the seasonal elements/beauty/music. All that to say, what you're experiencing, what I'm experiencing are real facets of the season and it's good to work through out feelings to get to the root of the issue.

Take good care this week to get some rest and drink in the hope and joy of the season. I'll do the same.


Blu-I'd-Blonde said...

Very well written essay about after-holiday feelings.

Yeah, I used to be let down after most holidays, until I finally admitted to myself I didn't like all the hoopla leading up to them. So I've let some of the expectations (mine and others) go and do what I enjoy in spite of a chronic pain disorder. Music and time to ponder the reason are my antidotes to let-downs. I play Christmas tapes and CDs in January and re-read the Christmas story and browse again my collection of Christmas books.

This year I started shopping before Thanksgiving and limited the decorations. Our immediate family didn't have Christmas till this past Sunday, Jan. 2nd. Hubby and I had a nice quiet time Christmas Eve and day. We a delicious freezer self-rise pizza dinner with salad and dessert. I liked it a lot. Our extended family used to wait till January to have Christmas and now we don't meet till Easter which is the most important of all.

For me, the less hoopla and expectations there are, the less letdown there is. Keeping it simple helps. Realizing and accepting the changes that come with the passing of holidays (aging, sickness, loss of a family member) sometime brings on the blues, but that's life. Jesus is the reason. Blessings in 2011

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this excellent post. I enjoyed it so much that I read it as a devotional for my Ladies Church Circle meeting this past Wednesday evening (hope you don't mind!) Everyone enjoyed it & said it seemed to "speak" to each of them! I'm also looking forward to reading the book you referred to, "Hugs for the Holidays" by John Smith.
I'm a fairly new reader of your blog, having just discovered you (can't remember how) about 6 months ago. I enjoy your thoughtful posts from a Christian perspective. Thanks!