It was Christmas Eve, and I was not feeling the Christmas spirit. This particular year, the holiday fell on a Tuesday, putting Christmas Eve on Monday. As a mother of five young children, my Mondays were generally exhausting. Having the sabbath on the day before meant the next day was spent making up for missed naps, meals out of order or skipped, and sickness picked up from church.
|Image from LDS.org. Used by permission.|
Our extended family party and present-opening at my parents' house had been on Sunday night as well. And to top it all off, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary and his birthday all within the last week. We were all worn out, and it showed.
On Christmas Eve, after all the children were in bed, I pondered about what had gone on that evening. Not only did I feel exhausted physically and emotionally, but I felt like the magic of Christmas got sucked out of our family.
The usual nativity reenactment was interrupted by one child wailing and running to her room because things weren't just right, while another was upset with her costume that kept falling off her head. My six-year-old was acting silly and crazy because of strange schedules and Christmas excitement. And my oldest child (seven years old) had an earache.
There were a few moments that evening that I felt the peace of the Holy Ghost, like when we sang "Joy to the World" together as I played the piano, and when my four-year-old was playing the part of the angel and recited her whole part from the scriptures, almost without help. But the moments were fleeting.
As I was finishing helping one child calm down to go to sleep, I realized we had never set out stockings. When I asked her if she wanted to, she said no. What happened to the magic and excitement? I just felt deflated.
My husband and I set out the stockings anyway, and then he put on a light-hearted Christmas show for us. I watched it with him but was not in the mood. I felt like I should have been watching something that would remind me about the Savior, not something silly.
After getting the baby to bed, I went to my bedroom to pray and get ready for bed. I asked Heavenly Father to help me feel the spirit of Christmas because the day had been really hard. Many times that week I had failed in being the kind, caring mother I wanted and needed to be. I felt I had done a little better that day, but still, it felt like something was missing.
Then in my mind, instead of thinking of all of the mistakes, I was reminded of the beauty of the day. I remembered how I calmly took my screaming children and comforted them before bed and didn't get upset because they were so tired that they had lost control of their emotions. The Spirit whispered to me that these acts were the true meaning of Christmas. I gave my children the best gift they could have received that night, and that was love.
Because I loved them, they could feel God's love and the love of the Savior, and that is the Spirit of Christmas. How grateful I was for that tender mercy that helped me sleep peacefully--and look forward to a happy Christmas Day with my family.