Every year about this time, I thumb through the women's magazines and see their ideas for how to have a happy Christmas. The slick, ink-scented, full-color pages are always brimming with suggestions.
You can almost smell golden glazed turkeys and butter-rich pastries heaped on elegant dining room tables. The little girls are always dressed in deep plum velvets, silky white taffeta or in layers of eyelet lace and satin ribbons. The little boys are dressed in knee-length dark blue knickers with cotton white knee socks and shiny black patent leather shoes. The Christmas tress in the magazines are always decorated with dazzling lights, bright poinsettias, or delicate glass and porcelain ornaments.
When I was a young mother I used to wish I could create a picture-perfect Christmas like that. I don't wish for that any more.
Now that many of my children have grown up and left home, they often tell me what they enjoyed most about our celebrations. It is never the presents, never the fancy clothes or decorations they mention . . . it is always our simple family traditions.
We like to have a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Eve. We set a place for the Savior at our Christmas dinner table. Later we dress up and act out the nativity story together reading from the Bible. Then when it gets dark outside, we gather around our olive wood Nativity set, light a candle and turn out the lights in the room. Each person selects a piece from the nativity set and thinks about a gift they want to give Jesus. As each family member comes forward they place their piece of the nativity set next to the baby Jesus. Then they tell the group what gift they want to give the Savior that coming year. When each person has had a chance to give their gift, we sing Christmas hymns by candlelight.
A picture-perfect Christmas is a tinsel illusion. We create our own rich reality.