Some years ago, on Christmas Eve, I sat in front of the Christmas tree with tears streaming down my face. I wasn’t sad because something terrible had happened, I was sad because I had missed Christmas. Not intentionally. It just happened. Somewhere between making cookies, singing carols at the retirement center, buying gifts, and decorating the tree, I had neglected the one thing that would make Christmas real. The one thing that would make Christmas Christmas: a Mary heart.
What does that really mean? A Mary heart?
It starts in the book of Luke after the angels appeared to the shepherds revealing the news of Jesus’ birth:
“Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told.” -LUKE 2: 1-20 (The Message)
Mary, the one who was pregnant before marriage in a culture where that was completely and utterly disgraceful; the one who had to leave home and travel on a donkey nine months pregnant; the one who had just given birth in a dirty, dung-ridden hovel because there was nowhere else for them to go. That Mary.
Life was far from perfect. It was hard, and messy, and complicated. Yet, in the middle of all of this life, scripture tells us that Mary treasured the present moment and let it land in the deep, deep places of her heart.
A Mary heart focuses on what is important and clears the table of the lesser things. It pushes aside distraction and trades it for crystal clear focus on the beauty and wonder of the present moment. It is able to rest and ponder and enjoy. Even when life isn’t perfect. Even when it is hard.
Since that year I missed Christmas, the same traditions and activities have filled our calendar, but the state of my heart during the season has changed and that has made all of the difference. I am able capture the miraculous and the ordinary that often intermingle in the every day of the season.
What has changed? How have I shifted my focus and state of being during this time of year? There are two things that set my season so that I can hold this posture well.
1. The first is using an organizational plan I created, Reclaiming Home for the Holidays.
This ebook helps me plan out:
Traditions I want to include this year
Gift giving strategies
Family Calendar Decisions
Food prep and planning
This planner has been a game-changer for me personally, which is why I decided to share it with you. It helps me have a game-plan so I avoid last minute panic and stress. I also find it relieves the low-lying stress level during December because I know what I’m doing and I don’t have to constantly think about what I have to do next. This one small step has saved Christmas for me in many ways.
2. The second thing I do is make Advent a priority once a week. This traditional church ritual focuses on the themes of love, joy, hope and peace each Sunday of December. A couple of years ago I created a family friendly Advent curriculum that is easy and doable for anyone who wants to begin incorporating this tradition. The practice of Advent is rich and meaningful, and helps focus our eyes on the true meaning of the season. I highly recommend it for your family this Christmas.
At the beginning of the season, I know that my level of intentional planning directly impacts how much my heart can rest and take in all that the season holds.
So what is the one thing we all need this Christmas? The posture and heart of Mary. Let it be so.