By Dr. Penny Freeman

  1. List everything you think people in your life want that will bring them ultimate joy.
  2. Try to find these items cheaper (anywhere) by checking all the search engines and local merchants within a five-mile radius.
  3. Stop and drag out all the decorating stuff. Trim the tree to surprise your spouse. Put all the boxes away to keep house tidy.
  4. Maintain a good attitude.
  5. Create a Martha Stewart-type menu to feed eight hungry adults and three babies on Christmas morning.
  6. Consider how to get your folks to “buy into the Christmas Eve” service at 4 p.m. without having to create another meal.
  7. Shop for stocking stuffers after work and before cooking supper (to save $ since December blows your eating-out budget).
  8. Sit down and drink tea for a few minutes and pay attention to the headache you have.
  9. Research how much it would cost to escape to England next year at Christmas.
  10. Write “coffee cups with lids” on the list to protect the rug from spilled coffee.
  11. Begin wrapping presents to get a jump on the wrapping frenzy of Christmas Eve. Realize the amount of loot you bought for your grandkids is not equal and one grandchild will get more. Revise list.
  12. Make an appointment with therapist….

So goes my list… and I am not done. I have 8 days left until Christmas and although I sing of Emmanuel coming, I feel none of it in my heart.

Last night, after my husband chastised me for being annoyed by the Christmas to-do list, I whispered, “I don’t see you buying all the presents or offering to make sure we eat on Christmas morning.” (OK, maybe I said it loudly with a tiny bit of sarcasm.) My comment hinted that something was not right in my heart. (Abandon hope all who see counselors to figure out why their lives are amuck, because I am one….and we have meltdowns, too.)

My irrational belief: the joy of Christmas depends ON me.

What mom doesn’t think this? We plan, organize and attempt the impossible, hoping for that look of magical delight to flicker across our loved ones’ faces. We long for our grandchild’s smile as he finds a new toy and runs in place with excitement. Or the smile of one person rubbing a well-filled tummy and exclaiming, “What a lovely feast!” We moms LIVE for a look that says we have satisfied someone, and although our iPhone cameras rarely register that moment in its glory, we hope for a glimpse of it.

However, as I consider the real Christmas gift story of Luke 2—a celestial angel showing up with an extravagant light show, speaking words given by God (because angels only do God’s bidding): “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you joyful news!” The universe’s joy was so big that the heavenly host (a bunch of these celestial beings who travel in packs) joined up for a worship service that stopped everyone on the field. These angels were so overcome with delight that they couldn’t help themselves from shouting/singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those whom his favor rests.”

Not “glory to mom.” Snap.

Why am I not more moved that his favor rests upon me? As a matter of fact, his favor is much better than a look I might get from someone for a well-cooked meal or a carefully chosen gift. His favor can’t be taken away, isn’t plastic (so it can’t be broken in 15 minutes) and won’t be outgrown (like most of the stuff I am wrapping).

So wrap away, and then put an ornament on your tree that will remind you of God’s favor.

By the way, Martha Stewart has a team of paid professionals to put on her breakfast buffet. For the rest of us (if kids are involved in your holiday celebration), what matters most is coffee cups with lids.