No room in the inn or my heart

I have to confess that the holiday-version of me is intense. I’m one of those people that starts listening to Christmas music well before November, and the day after Thanksgiving, I am in full on Christmas mode – decorating, baking, sending out my Christmas cards, filling up my calendar and making a thousand different lists of things to do and get and remember. I am busy, a little flighty, and over-enthusiastic about the holidays.

I really do enjoy all of the Christmas busy-ness that comes with this time of year. I love addressing my Christmas cards while a Hallmark movie plays in the background and I sip eggnog. I love baking cookies with my family and Christmas shopping. I love wrapping presents and decorating my house, and I love all the parties and tacky sweaters and merry-making with friends. Most of the time, all that I commit to are things that I want to do. Yet, when it’s all over, I am left feeling sad and empty.

Year after year, I go through these same motions. I over-commit, over-schedule and over-extend myself.

By December 25th, I am deflated and worn out. Without fail, every year the day after Christmas, I recluse and get very serious and quiet. I look back on the year and evaluate my failures and successes. I grade myself, log all of the things I got wrong yet again and beat myself up for how poorly I lived my year. After a month of celebrations and merry-making, it always ends in tears and self-contempt.

This December dance I do every year is the same. It is familiar and I know the steps well. I spin and twirl through activities and to-do lists, much of which I really do enjoy. But December 26th cuts in and the dance takes a different turn. Before I know it, the season is over and not only have I ended it with failing my end-of-year report card, but I know in my heart that once again, I’ve missed Jesus in all of it. I think the empty feeling I have is because I was never filled with Him to begin with.

The familiar Christmas Carol “Joy to the World” has the convicting line, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” I’m afraid that I’m much like the innkeeper who turned away Joseph and Mary and gave them a stable to sleep in for the night because I have no room left. Jesus is is in His hay-filled cradle on a small shelf in my living room, an apparent afterthought of the season. The book I had intended to read with my children for advent is bookmarked on Day 2 as we only got through the first day. And as I look at my full calendar and list of things to do, I am left with the sad awareness that I have not made any room for Him in my heart, my home, or my schedule once again. My December dance has not changed.

It feels embarrassing to admit all of this. I don’t want you to know that I can care more about ornaments and parties or that I can create a holiday-colored swirl of chaos that would leave you feeling tired if you encountered me.

Thankfully, December is not over. Even through the noise and chaos of my full calendar and endless activities, I can hear His gentle voice inviting me to something different, something more. It’s not too late to change the dance.

Deeply rooted in South Texas, Jennifer Stamness is a sunshine-lover, wife and mother to two young boys. She enjoys creating beauty in places like writing, music, decorating and throwing parties. She desires to follow Jesus into the unknown places He invites her to and is thankful for His abundant and amazing grace. Jennifer writes, dreams and shares pieces of her story here.