I love making things. Except when I don’t. I told my friend the other day, when I was about to make a few small wreaths to hang in my dining room, that I have a love-hate relationship with this kind of thing, particularly at Christmastime. I bounce back and forth so quickly between delightful abandon and endless fussing and perfectionism. I could work away the night on a project for the joy of it and then wind up embarrassed and groaning for how much time I spent and sleep I lost and still not be entirely happy with the finished product.

Yes, I’m a piece of work. And I’m taking a shot in the dark that you can relate.

There’s probably way more intrapersonal muck here than is wise to try and parse out, but one thing I know is true: in all worthwhile endeavors (and some that aren’t) is the ever ready temptation to corrupt a good thing. In the dreaming, the creating, the fiddling is the charming prospect of vain glory and self-satisfaction.

At Christmastime this is a temptation that is hard to resist, with all the trappings and white Christmas-esque dreams. And naturally so. There’s so much at stake. The whole season is meant to be a celebration of the birth of the Savior of mankind! We’re supposed to be preparing and waiting like little children with eager anticipation as we remember His first coming and long for His second. It’s supposed to be a time when hearts are lifted and fond memories are made. But like our mother Eve, we often come marveling, distracted by speculation, and then grasping, and then sunk in shame and despair. We come to this season high on expectations and short on faith and perseverance.

We are all born of Eve, but we have another mother in our genealogy, Mary. This dear woman greeted her fate with open hands instead of grabby ones. In humble submission she took it all in, laying aside her own felt needs, desires, reputation, her own body, and life trajectory. Her expectations for her life were gone in one afternoon.

Meanwhile, all we’re talking about is making some sacrifices for the Christmas season.

Christmas is a time when it’s safe to go all in. Joy and merry-making are standard fixtures of the holiday. I’m not advocating killing it with your decor or putting everyone else to shame with the thoughtful and awesome gifts you buy, smilingly baking all the cookies and doing all the activities. I’m talking about showing up giving instead of taking, rejoicing instead of grinching.

Paul tells the Phillipians to rejoice. And then he tells them to do it again. And that there’s no harm in telling them again. It’s a safeguard in fact. Imagine if instead of getting our personal boundaries and holiday self-care strategy firmly in place we cast our anxious fears (aka holiday stress) on the Lord and let him be the one on guard duty. He’s promised to guide us and be our rear guard.

Go ahead and make your short list of dos and don’ts this holiday season. Then let the Spirit nudge you past your perceived limit and find life and joy in being the one who gives. He is the best giver and he supplies all our needs from his own abundant stores.

Give with open hands and a joyful heart. Pour out your gift budget, your energy budget, your grocery budget, however large or small, and with whatever little faith you have, and the joy of the Lord as your strength. Sow generously and cheerfully and reap bountifully this holiday season.

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