Heather was only seven or eight years old when it happened. While having lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom in Disney World, Heather asked for some ketchup for her fries. As she turned the ketchup bottle up to pour, she suddenly realized that it was pouring so fast – her fries were about to drown and sort of froze not knowing what to do. The only thing she could say was, “Too much! Too much! Too much!” I grabbed the bottle and stopped the deluge of ketchup from covering everything on our table and Heather and all the rest in our party were saved. Immediately after that we all laughed at her reaction. “Too much! Too much! Too much!” would become a phrase we would use (and still use) often when the need for such a comment seemed appropriate. In that moment all Heather could say or do was utter those two words, “Too much!”
I have thought of that phrase this Christmas. As Lisa and I have walked through various stores here in Ohio and across the state line into West Virginia searching for gifts for people who don’t need anything (sound familiar?), while navigating in and through the crowds of people also searching for things nobody really needs – Heather’s words, “Too much!”, come to mind. Christmas has become too much. We spend too much, we want too much, we work too much, we worry too much, we do too much. Every year we tell ourselves to keep things simple at Christmas and convince ourselves that this year will be different. We won’t go broke or go crazy. This year we will slow down – take it easy, R-E-L-A-X. Those good intentions last about as long as it took that ketchup to overtake Heather’s fries. Before we know what happened – we have spent too much money and worried too much about spending too much money. Christmas can be a real bummer if we let it.
The truth for Lisa and I is that our Christmas is being made by simply going home. That’s it! We want nothing else. Two years ago we spent our Christmas in southern California, unable to get home. We shipped our gifts home and watched our family via our computer open their gifts. The only Christmas decoration in our apartment was a card sent to us by a family member. It was the saddest Christmas of our lives. But a great lesson was learned in the process. That Christmas was sad not because we did not open a lot of gifts Christmas morning or have a tree to decorate or a home cooked meal to enjoy. It was that we were not home – not with our family – not where we belonged. Being home for Christmas means everything to us and home, for us, is our family and friends.
The simplest Christmas of all time was the first Christmas. I can’t imagine a less hectic, less chaotic moment in history than what we find in the nativity scene. Could anything be more simple than the humble birth of a baby in a bed of hay? Why God chose that time and place to bring his Son into the world is beyond me. It was so primitive and exposed and unsanitary. Had he chose to come in 2014 we could have really put on a show. But, thank goodness that decision was not left up to us. In Bethlehem there were no Wal-Marts, Hampton Inns or “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”. That first Christmas happened without car horns or ATM machines. The first Christmas happened in near silence. Think of that – Christmas in silence. I am reminded of the title of an old album by Christian singer John Michael Talbott – “Come to the Quiet”. That is good Christmas advice, Mr. Talbott. Let’s all ‘come to the quiet’ this Christmas.
I know that is not easy. In fact, I really don’t know how to keep Christmas simple. It inevitably becomes a frenzy of activity and chaos. No matter how we try, the Christmas holiday always seems to get out of hand as if it automatically kicks us into a higher gear as a, sort of, default setting if there is an indication we might slow down. I suppose I should just give in to it. Okay, crazy, hectic Christmas – you win! But at least we will be going crazy at home where the search for a simple, quiet Christmas will go on.
And don’t be surprised if in your quiet Christmas moment you hear a crazy man yelling, “Too much! Too much! Too much!” It will probably be me.
Coming home for Christmas, Love Steve and Lisa