Mother Teresa said, “The more you have, the more occupied you are…But the less you have, the more free you are.” For her, poverty was freedom. Free from the yoke and the choke of materialism, free to spend her time giving and serving rather than polishing her boat and cars. Just free.
I’m no Mother Teresa, but this time of year always leaves me with a yearning to simplify. Every year, I want to wage a mighty rebellion against the rush of endless shopping, Christmas parties, and perfect holiday cards. And every year, I lose, defenseless and washed away by the buying-frenzy, candy-cane scented Christmas current. Whoosh! (Mmmm, minty).
I especially feel this urge to simplify as a mom wanting to show my kids that Christmas is not just about stuff. Christmas is about magic; it’s a celebration of Jesus’ birth and a celebration of the gifts of love, joy, and peace. (Did you know that you can’t buy love, joy, and peace on Amazon.com?)
Of course, I also want my kids to tumble down the stairs on Christmas morning and be rabid with excitement at the sight of their presents. These are moments they will always remember and cherish, and I deeply want to create those moments.
But can’t we have a little more magic and a little less stuff? I’m no Grinch, but I’m looking for some balance here.
Ever the tool of Christmas magic, the Elf on the Shelf is practically a red carpet celebrity in our house. As I was putting my six-year-old daughter to sleep recently, she told me she thinks Daddy moves the Elf each morning (which is ridiculous and slightly offensive, since I am the one who comes up with the completely clever and mischievous Elf maneuvers). Ego-aside, I told her you have to believe in magic with all your heart in order for magic to happen. Indignant, she quipped, “Imaginary things are not important. Only real things are important.”
What? Alarm bells rang in my head; smoke came out of my ears. I knew then we needed to slap some magic into this Christmas, stat.
The next morning, she found our elf lurking snarkily next to a message he had written on the wall in chalk, “Believe in magic.” Her eyes were huge as she ran to me, exclaiming, “Rudy (the elf) wrote a message to me to believe in magic since I said I didn’t last night! How did he know, mommy!?”
“Magic,” I said, simply. She nodded in fervent agreement.
Magic is faith and hope all rolled up in a pretty package. Thankfully, magic is everywhere: in the wide-eyed wonder of a child, in the spark-plug red leaves of an autumn tree, in the clouds so tufted the light reflects like an iridescent seashell.
We can see it in the sparkling eyes of a listening friend or feel it in a sincere and gentle hug from your spouse. It’s there when you’re thinking of someone and suddenly at that very moment, they call you.
It’s in that moment when you look at the people around your dinner table, and you feel like your heart might bust open from gratitude.
It’s continuing to believe in the inherent goodness of people despite the fear and evil in the world.
It’s that glow on Christmas Eve when the excitement is so palpable, you could grab it in your hand and throw it into the air like confetti. And it’s that feeling of slow, sweet contentment on Christmas Day that wraps around you like a warm, lazy blanket.
Mother Teresa went against the current and said less is more. Less stuff means more time and more freedom to simply look up and see the magic and goodness that are all around us. I’m on the lookout for magic this Christmas season because imaginary things ARE important. Xboxes and American Girl dolls are admittedly great, but wonder and joy and all things ethereal are the true memory makers.
Wishing lots of magic, love, and heavenly peace for each of you and your families this holiday season.