Three sets of little hands surround you. One pulling at the neck line of your shirt with the force of a baby determined to show he is hungry. The other voraciously throwing tissue paper out of packages that weren’t hers to open, but who can tell a four-year-old a present is not hers to open? And the third, the middle child, unsure of what to make of the colors and the noise and all the new things around him, a few feet off to the side with his hands covering his ears.
Deep breath, mama. This is it. This is the kind of Christmas morning you did not even know you had been dreaming about.
You may have been picturing table settings and matching pajamas and sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace, but you had to move all the beautifully set silverware out of reach of the toddler’s seat, the baby spit up on the striped jammies, and the fireplace is too hot to be safely nearby it. You may have thought this morning would be different than all the other mornings, that the toddlers would fight a little bit less and that patience would float through the air right alongside the sound of Bing Crosby and land magically on everyone, all of us dreaming of our white Christmas and living the stuff of perfect Holiday cards.
But you’re a mama. And it is a special morning in so many ways. But it is the same morning in so many others. Hungry bellies and urgent requests for more milk and grandma upped the ante by giving the four-year-old a candy cane before breakfast. It’s Christmas!, she says. And of course it is, so you will handle the fallout of the sugar crash just like you have a hundred times before.
For a moment, you may be tempted to gaze out the frosted window and long for the years ahead, when the kids are all self-sufficient enough to get their own milk and dexterous enough to not spill on their pajamas and—dare I say— compliant enough to smile for a picture in front of the fireplace. You may close your eyes and think of the Holiday season when you are not refereeing whose turn it is to open the next gift and not pulling ribbon out of the baby’s mouth. You may wonder when it will get easier to manage the beautiful chaos of a Christmas morning celebration, a day when those family dinners with turkey and rolls and candles on the table—real, lit candles on the table!—will actually happen. You may be tempted to think that these years and these holidays that don’t feel altogether like the holidays, are just fillers for the perfection ahead.
But mama, wrap your hands around your warm mug and lean in closely, because there is good news for all of us. Perfection has only ever, and for always, existed in the baby we celebrate this season. It was never our job to create a holiday so magical for our children that we can capture it in filtered pictures. Quite the opposite, actually. Our job has always been to live a life so honest for our children that they see how much we need that perfect baby, our King Jesus. That’s who we sing for. That’s who we stay up late wrapping gifts and putting postage stamps on cards for. That perfect, His perfection, is what we hold up, because our perfection will never get past chaos. And if these years of little faces and loud voices and the constant need for hypervigilance around the ornaments teach us anything, it’s that where we are right now is good, because Jesus is always good. Perfect, in fact.
So breathe in that evergreen scent and savor it. Then go grab the baby, because he’s got a low Fircrest branch in his hands and the glass turtle doves are dangerously close.
Merry Christmas mamas. Bless the mess, and praise the Savior who came to clean it.
*A short excerpt of this essay was featured in the 2016 Pursuit Holiday Magazine