The Sneaky Stench of Christmas Panic
Amidst the wonderful smells of turkeys basting, gravy simmering, and pies baking, I smelled something foul this past weekend. I caught a whiff of it on the way to Grandma’s house, passing homes basking in the glow of twinkling lights and plastic nativity scenes. I stole a sniff of it when I noticed the peppermint creamer served alongside the caramel macchiato and pumpkin spice varieties. I couldn’t ignore the disgusting odor settling into our conversation around the Thanksgiving table as well-meaning aunts and uncles asked my kiddos what they were hoping might show up under the tree next month. The scent is not easy to ignore. It’s the sneaky stench of Christmas panic.
This panic likes to boil up like a pressure cooker. It starts sometime in November and increases in strengths and potency as we move into December. I don’t really know if this sense of panic is only reserved for mothers. I can’t imagine this impending dread is gender specific. I just know that it’s real, that it’s palpable, and that it is already threatening to overtake that sweet, lingering aroma of Thanksgiving thankfulness—a time that we are supposed to give only gratitude. No gifts. Just thanks.
I have decided that this year, I’m going to be intentional about keep the air around me fresh from the stench. I made a choice to at least preserve the month of November as stench-free. This is not easy as my stack of Christmas cards sit unlabeled on the dining room table. The smell is difficult to ignore as I open up the paper stuffed with shopping ads and coupons. The aroma of greediness and busyness threaten to overpower my sweet smell of peace. But I am trying. This year, I am trying to ignore the sneaky stench of Christmas.
So, this past weekend, I didn’t cut down a tree or hang lights or dig out my Christmas decoration bins. I didn’t clean the house or deck the halls or even make a meal—unless heating up Thanksgiving leftovers counts. I did not think about a list or wrap a present. But it’s not because I didn’t feel the pressure to do so. I saw everyone’s Instagram posts and Pinterest recreations. I marveled at the creativity and ingenuity of my friends. I smiled. I pressed like. But this year, I have been decidedly intentional about savoring this time of year and the people I am so very thankful for.
Of course, making that decision to be intentionally slower-paced also means that now I am unintentionally behind. But it’s okay, because Christmas will come whether or not I’m ready for it. Lights will eventually be hung, cookies made, and presents purchased. There is no need to add worry to my list of things to do. The stench will do its best to bring me into a place of comparison but I will do my very best to ignore it.
Because when the Pumpkin Lattes have been replaced with Peppermint Patties and the beautiful Fall colors and cornucopias are replaced with shiny snowflakes and wreaths, I will remember that Christmas is about Jesus. It’s the arrival of our King, the little miracle baby who was intentional about saving the world.
So, I will set up my nativity scene and hum The First Noel and light my winterberry candle to ward off the stench of panic. I will remember that Christmas is Holy, and no amount of decking the halls or finding the perfect gift or making the perfect meal makes it less so. And whenever that nasty smell of panic makes its way into my sweet-smelling thankfulness, I will sing aloud the song by Jeremy Camp and take in a deep breath of holiness. Here’s to a stench-free month for you, too.
Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.
—Song: Give Me Jesus by Jeremy Camp