We're moving before Christmas.
The idea of moving across country is daunting for anyone. How do you take 16 years of living and place it into four storage cubes? How do you tackle the list of to-dos, like cancelling utilities, switching insurance policies and disconnecting cable (when they make you say "no" five times before honoring your request)?
How do you reduce ten boxes of precious school mementos to a "reasonable" three? How do you negotiate the purchase of another house while living hundreds of miles away? How do you fit in goodbyes to friends and neighbors?
The planner in me is overwhelmed. I've taken on all kinds of jobs, big jobs, intimidating jobs, but this one...this one is huge.
And then, I realized what the timing meant for me and for my family. We were scheduled to close on our house just before Christmas. That meant no going to the Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree. That meant no live evergreen wreath on the front door. No putting out the nativity set with its little bag of hay and trying, again, to find the baby Jesus.
Cards are unsent. Lights are unhung. Ornaments are still boxed. Gifts are not bought.
My heart is homesick for Christmas.
But as I sat in my little puddle of being sorry for me, I had a thought. Actually, my Christmas is a lot like the first one.
Mary and Joseph were moving for Christmas. They were traveling too - of course not with a mother-in-law, teenage daughter, 35-pound dog, in a Kia Soul. They were riding a donkey and walking; Mary with her pregnancy almost to term. They were headed cross country with no hotel room waiting on the other end.
I am sure that their lives felt completely unsettled. Mary had announced her pregnancy out of wedlock. Joseph had stood by her, but they must have had moments of awkwardness and tension. After all, they were newlyweds, parents-to-be, still getting to know one another. I'm sure they were worried about the future.
Christmas for them was about where they needed to go and what they needed to do. They were living with the expectation of the birth of their baby, this Child who would change the world. Christmas had nothing at all to do with carols and trees and ornaments. It had nothing to do with my still unopened, ten Rubbermaid containers of decorations.
So, this year, I'll have that kind of Christmas. I'll have the one in my heart that knows and believes and hopes and perseveres. I'll hug my family close. I'll dream and sing and love and celebrate the birth of my Savior.
I'll pray for a family I know whose dad just entered intense chemo. I'll pray for my friend whose daughter is leaving for the mission field.
I'll hum along to the man playing, "O Holy Night" on his trumpet in the subway station.
I'll appreciate my neighbor's Christmas lights and turn the television to "White Christmas" while I pack.
I'll refuse my gloom, put aside my Martha Stewart expectations of what this holiday should be, and celebrate this strange and unsettling Christmas on the road.