When I was a little girl, I loved going on rides – at the playground and the amusement park. We lived near one of the largest parks in the city where I spent many summer hours playing. There was a ride in the playground called the Roundup. It was a big circular bench attached by spokes to a big steel post – it looked like a bicycle wheel on its side – and it spun riders round and round. Every time we went around, I would fix my eyes on something – a tree branch, the red frame of a swing-set, a rock in the corner of the playground – to keep from getting dizzy.
When I was 17, my boyfriend and I went to a lot of dances and I learned ballroom dancing. The rhumba and foxtrot were easy. The waltzes were trickier, especially the sweeping wave and flow of the Viennese waltz. But the killer was the polka. My guy was tall and a good dancer, and he loved jumping and spinning me around the room. To keep from getting dizzy, I would pick some immovable object, fix my eyes on it as we danced.
Since then, there have been many times in my life when I needed to fix my eyes on something stable, to keep me grounded. Not just on rides or when dancing, but any time life threw me for a loop and I felt myself spinning out of control.
I’m reminded of that now because I find myself, once again, trying to shake off the pre-Christmas blahs. That peculiar emotional stew that bubbles up in early December. Always the same ingredients, but in varying quantities and combinations.
There’s a generous dollop of work worries – the need to get things wrapped up before everyone disappears for the holidays, first mentally and then physically. Already, in the back corner of my mind, is the anticipation of January’s demands: fourth quarter reports, 2016 annual report, client meetings, marketing and presentations to plan for 2017.
An equally generous dollop of family fuss – will celebrations be festive and fun or will there be some flared tempers and misunderstandings that will spoil the mood for everyone? Will snow make for treacherous driving? Will we be healthy and able to enjoy the holidays?
There are the inevitable health concerns – I had a slight flu early in December, and now I’m trying not to catch the cold bug that’s circulating at work. I don’t want to get sick before Christmas, or over the holidays, or even after New Year’s Day, but I usually do succumb; I’m just hoping it won’t be too severe.
I always take vacation time for a much-needed break from the December 24th through the first of January. I look forward to time off, and make plans for things I hope to do – reorganize my home (this year – kitchen cupboards), visit with friends and catch up on some sleep. I know the time will fly by and, with obligatory family get-togethers, me time will dwindle to three or four days.
December 31st, New Year’s Eve, means a quiet evening with friends, not a wild party. My cluster of close friends, all single women (one widowed, two divorced, two separated) gathers to enjoy a nice dinner, we watch a movie, talk, laugh and count down the old year and welcome the new. This year New Year’s Day is on a Sunday, and two of my friends and I are on the praise team that leads on the first Sunday of the month – which means we need to be at church at 8:30 AM on New Years’ Day! What’s more, my nephew and his girlfriend arrive at 6 AM on New Year’s Day, and we’ll celebrate with a big family dinner that night. All this on 6 hours of not-so-great sleep!
Sigh… none of this has happened yet and already I’m tired and slightly disillusioned. I’m eager for a fresh start in a new year, and the countdown to spring and warmer weather.
So I shake off the busyness of preparations, the anxiety and fretting about what will happen afterwards, and focus on the holy day. Remember the most important thing of all – the focal point – is the One that Christmas is all about Jesus. In the midst of the maelstrom, this tiny babe, the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us. Nestled in a manger, huddled in a chilly cave, the home of sheep and cows, surrounded by his beaming parents, worshiping shepherds and a choir of angels.
This is Christmas. Not the presents and parties, food and family and friends. Those things are delightful byproducts of celebrating the important and priceless gift. The reason for the season. Our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ. Love, come down from heaven, bringing hope, joy and peace on earth.
My heart quiets within me, as I watch snowflakes fly and twilight descend. Stars twinkle across the indigo sky, and I remember to fix my eyes upon Him.
Wishing you all