By Karen Kingsbury
Author of The Bridge
Kelsey was six when she sat down at the table and created a homemade Christmas card for me. “Mary Christmas, Mommy,” the card read. Beneath the words was a drawing of a Christmas tree, a cross, and Kelsey and me, holding hands. I stared and stared at that card. The message was more profound than my little daughter could’ve known.
Mary Christmas? Indeed. Kelsey’s married now, but the hand-printed letters of her Christmas wish still come back to me every now and then, and with it, the Bible story of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Luke 10 tells the story of Jesus paying a visit to these women. Martha raced around the house doing the work, tending to the preparations and missing out on the visitor in her midst. Mary, though, sat at the feet of Jesus and reveled in His presence.
Martha was busy, but Mary was blessed. At that point, I was pretty used to having a “Martha” Christmas. Dashing around the house putting up the perfect decorations, hurrying through the mall looking for the perfect gift, overbuying because I would forget what I’d already stored in my Christmas closet. Missing out on so many simple moments.
The image brings to mind one of the saddest Christmas news items ever. It happened in a New York Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving a few years ago. Crowds of people had gathered outside the store, anxious for Black Friday bargains on what is traditionally the first day of the Christmas shopping season. By the time the doors opened at 5 a.m., thousands of people were gathered, worked into a frenzy of anticipation. The throng of shoppers exploded into the store, trampling to death a temporary employee who had unlocked the doors.
A man died because of Christmas greed. The horrific incident underlined Kelsey’s simple little Christmas card once again. I recommitted myself to creating a Christmas experience marked by the simplicity of sitting at the feet of the newborn King. I came up with three ways I can do this, three ways all of us might truly have a Mary Christmas.
Mend relationships. Matthew 5:23 says, “If you are offering a gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.”
The same is true with the people we love. There is no point racing through the mall to find the perfect gift for a sister or a parent, when the relationship with that person is strained or neglected. Christmas—more than any other time—is the perfect chance to take stock of the people God has placed in our lives. Do we owe someone an apology? Should we take someone out for coffee or check in on them? Is there a letter we could write or a phone call we could place? These are the most beautiful gifts, and they should be given before we hit the mall.
Make time for traditions. I tried an experiment with my kids. During a family dinner I asked them to tell me about the Christmas presents they received last year. The kids drew a blank look— all of them. They looked at us, and then at each other and pretty quickly a panic appeared in their eyes. As they racked their brains for even a single answer the experiment quickly netted us the results we suspected. The kids simply couldn’t remember the gifts they’d been given.
“OK,” my husband said, “What do you remember?” Their faces lit up and Austin shouted, “Our gingerbread house competition!” “Baking cookies and caroling,” EJ and Sean cried out.
The conversation that followed was one I’ll always remember. We talked about a list of family traditions. The gingerbread houses, the night of caroling, the Christmas music and advent calendar. The reading of The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever, and our favorite Christmas movies. Every year, year after year after year. Family traditions are a great way to take Christmas slowly, and make the days count.
Marvel at His majesty. Author Robert Ketchum tells of a Sunday school teacher who asked her children if anyone could quote the entire 23rd Psalm. A little blonde girl, not quite five years old, stood and raised her hand. Doubting the child’s ability to know the entire Psalm, the teacher asked the girl if she could really recite the whole Scripture. She smiled and nodded, and walked to the front of the room. Then with the joy of the Lord shining in her eyes, she said, “The Lord is my shepherd, that’s all I want.” And she sat back down.
If only we would spend more of our Christmas hours holding tight to that single thought. The Lord is everything to us. He is truly all we need, all we could ever want. For only God can give us the best gifts of all—the fruit of the Holy Spirit—Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Thoughtfulness, and Self Control. What a Christmas display that would be.
As Christmas draws near again, I am reminded once more of Kelsey’s precious card. A Christmas tree, a cross, and the two of us holding hands. What else could we want? I will spend the rest of my Christmases determined to use December in a way I will remember. I will mend relationships, make time for traditions, and marvel at His majesty—and I will teach my children the same. In that way, I can always be sure to do what Kelsey wanted me to do so many years ago.
Have a very Mary Christmas!
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