Waiting to Exhale


Is anyone else glad the holidays are over? Sitting by the fire with a cup of coffee last Monday morning, I released an exhale of monumental proportions. “I made it” was my only thought. It wasn’t pretty, but I survived. The marathon of festivities had finally come to a close – and none too soon for me. I thought there was something wrong with me until I heard other women sharing the same sentiment. As I caught up with friends this week, the common lament I heard was, “Thank goodness it’s over” followed by a collective sigh of relief.

I love the holidays, but they’re exhausting and messy – just like life. They may be over, but I still have to undo Christmas, which isn’t nearly as much fun as setting it up. Creating Christmas memories and traditions tends to fall on women for the most part – a daunting task as is the cleanup. It used to take me weeks just to get through all the linens with the septic system already moaning from three days and 30 people. That is until my sister-in-law suggested instituting a BYOSH&T (bring your own sheets and towels) system which helps enormously.

As I began the dismantling process, I thought of the first Christmas. Whatever I was cleaning up pales in comparison to their situation. Childbirth is a messy process under the most sterile conditions. In the filth of a stable with no water or clean linens available, it certainly couldn’t have resembled the peaceful nativity scene we see depicted where Mary appears unruffled and Joseph none the worse for wear either. I don’t know any man who could help his wife through labor without breaking a sweat or running for help.

Though none could match those extreme circumstances, the list of Christmas calamities I heard seemed endless: plumbing issues, hoards of relatives, travel glitches, illness, unexpected guests, difficult weather conditions, personality conflicts, toppling trees, burnt dinners, gift blunders, failed caroling attempts and testy moms with too much to do. The problem is many of us strive to create an idyllic Christmas à la Norman Rockwell but reality is much more complicated, chaotic, and often untidy.

Then it dawned on me. The sole/soul reason Christmas exists is because life isn’t idyllic. That’s why God sent His son – to clean up the mess we created. Christ arrived in a mess, he died in a mess, but that’s not the end of His story or ours. This is the promise of Christmas – that He will ultimately clean up humanity’s mess when He comes again. God’s presence and promises don’t get boxed away until next year but stored in our hearts for a lifetime. His presence and promises are what encourage me to enter the New Year and each day with hope in my heart despite the messy conditions of our world.

Here’s a unique perspective that will give you something to think about this year. Unless you live in a cave, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season.” True enough from our point of view. However, the real miracle of Christmas is that for Him, WE are the reason for the season.

Christ is the gift that keeps on giving long after the tree is in the trash and the decorations are packed away, but the choice is ours whether or not to accept it.

Personally, I choose to start every day reveling in His gift because it makes the cleanups of life easier in so many ways and gives rest to my weary soul. I don’t want to go through life waiting to exhale. I don’t want to just ‘get through’ each day thinking, “Thank goodness it’s over.” (Though admittedly there are days when that’s the best we can hope for.) I choose to live an abundant life, and I can’t do that without Him.