Thursday, December 20, 2012

Do You Feel What I Feel?

One of my favorite Christmas songs from my childhood was “Do You Hear What I Hear?” which I’d listen to on the living room stereo as often as I could, hearing the news of the Savior’s birth spread from wind to lamb to shepherd boy to king and finally to people everywhere. I love the swell of the music and the message as it grows throughout the song.

Now it makes me tired.

In fact, a lot of Christmas makes me tired.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. It really is my favorite time of the year. I’d start playing Christmas music in October if my lovely wife would let me. (My mother used to tell of her father who would whistle "Silent Night" all year long.) I like to start baking Christmas cookies at the beginning of November (though my lovely you-know-who tries to make we wait until Thanksgiving).

We have cherished family traditions that I don’t like to let go of – cookie plates to deliver to friends and neighbors, a shopping day with my lovely wife to go in search of certain special goodies, lots of Christmas music, singing with the ward choir in the Christmas program, our own Christmas Eve Swedish smorgasbord (one of the most wonderful traditions coming from my wife’s family) followed by a quiet family devotional which includes some reading of the New Testament accounts of the Savior’s birth. And on Christmas morning, our children wake us with Christmas carols at the foot of our bed.

Of course we also have the normal stress of gifts and parties and school events, package preparation and mailing to faraway children and siblings, wrapping and hiding of gifts at home, not to mention the steady flow of everyday life on top of it all.

I have improved in many areas. A number of years ago I realized I was hating Christmas Eve because I ended up locked away on my own wrapping presents – something I really don’t like under the best of circumstances. I learned to spread my wrapping duties over time, to invite children to help with some of it so it’s a together experience, and to play Christmas music while I wrap, so at least I can feel a little holiday spirit in the process.

And we’ve streamlined the cookie plates to friends and neighbors just a bit, and we no longer try to do them on Christmas Eve at the same time we’re setting up the smorgasbord.

But the fact is, no matter how much we streamline, we’ll always be busy at Christmas. And I will be tired. The older I get the truer this seems to be: I tire more easily.

Of course I try to focus on the most important things like remembering the Savior, working on relationships rather than things and so on. I made the leap a few years ago from trying to have everything perfect for everyone. Now we do what we can and hope for the best. Fortunately our kids are very kind-hearted.

I still toss and turn on Christmas Eve in fear that I will fail to bring a smile to one of my kids on Christmas morning. It’s never happened that I can remember, but I still worry. (It’s never happened in part because my kids have learned well from their lovely mom’s example of gracious appreciation for my feeble efforts, and because their lovely mom has a lot to say about gift selection.)

I remember years past when we stayed up late to assemble gifts with far too many pieces or to wait for the living room to clear so that we could do what needed to be done before we went to bed. And I’m glad we are not there anymore. Our gifts these days, thanks to the ages of our kids, don’t require assembly by me.

So, I do feel tired this Christmas. And maybe some of the details will slip away this year compared with last. But that’s ok. We’ll still wake to Christmas carols on Christmas morning, and we’ll still have many of our children with us and be close at least electronically with the others. And then I’ll still feel tired. But I’ll feel happy, too.

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