How Did We Go from the Manger to Madness?

I've been dreading the holidays, particularly Christmas this year. I first threatened that I wasn't putting up a single Christmas decoration. Then I decided I needed the distraction of decorating and entertaining this year.  I've stated to wonder why it seems even more painful to be going through stuff during the holidays than any other time of the year. I think it is because we set all these expectations for ourselves and feel all this pressure to have the perfect holiday. When in fact, we live in a far from perfect world where no perfect day or season exists. No matter how great your mantle or tree may look, you have neighbors hungry or hurting. There are family members who are not with us again this year. There's illnesses, divorce, poverty and so much more robbing us all of that perfect holiday we think everyone else is having.  And we can't be left out by having a far from perfect Christmas. Besides songs tell us it is the most wonderful time of the year. And how could we not feel left out thanks to everything from Christmas commercials to everyone's overly joyous Facebook posts! 
Sure your Elf on the Shelf has done some funny things this year. But how much time did you spend setting up your elf’s shenanigans and then take the perfect picture and then lastly upload it to every social media outlet? But really who am I to judge? I just spent days (ok really a month) planning the perfect Christmas party for my girlfriends. Why? I had to overcompensate that my entire family wouldn’t be together on Christmas day. This party had to make up for my less than perfect Christmas I have planned with one parent instead of two.
How in the world did we go from such humble beginnings of this holiday in a manger to all this madness? Our Savior was born in a stable surrounded by animals and all the “gifts” that come with barn animals. And He did it for you and me. And how do we commemorate this glorious day and seasons as Christians? We stress ourselves out to the max to take the perfect picture for the perfect Christmas card. The most thoughtful gifts must be purchased for everyone we know and stuffed in the cutest gift bag imaginable. We have to plan the perfect menu for the perfect party. And let’s not forget we have to attend 1,001 Christmas parties. Our Christmas decorations must be grander each year. We can’t be the only house on our street without a blowup Santa and every bush has to be adorned with lights. Our Christmas tree has to be filled with all color coordinated ornaments that match every other Christmas decoration in the house. And why do we do all of this? To have the perfect Christmas! Everything else in our lives should be perfect as well. There’s no room for heartache on Christmas. If the Joneses are having a great and over the top Christmas then I should be too. Those are the expectations we've set for ourselves.
So how do we get back to what’s important? How do we take the pressure off of ourselves to not be like everyone else? How do we make this season hurt a little less when we are enduring so much heartache? I think for me it is to truly acknowledge that nothing is perfect and can be perfect. The word really shouldn't be in our vocabulary.
I pray that over the next week I place my focus on the manger. My hope is to have a grateful heart because even in the midst of this far from easy holiday, I still have countless blessings. First and foremost, I serve a God who sent His only son to this imperfect world to save me from my imperfections and the imperfections of this world. And that in and of itself is a lot to focus on and to be thankful for. So if you see me start to have a pity party this week  or try to over compensate and start planning the "perfect" Christmas dinner, make me re-read this post. Help me refocus if needed and send me back to the manger.  
Much love to you all and Merry Christmas! 

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