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Disheveled Theologian: Theological Stocking Stuffers, Week 7 -- Stop and think about it

“Take one day at a time,” they say. “Make lists. Check them twice. Don’t be overwhelmed by the big picture.”

Easier said than done. Problem is, I like the big picture. I want to see it. But it’s obscured by all the little pixels of the daily obligations.

I love the Christmas season, but there is so much to do that the love gets smothered by the duties. This year has felt like one long checklist. As I drive away from one event I mentally check it off, take a deep sigh and turn my attention to the next thing.

It’s hard to enjoy any of it. But I want to enjoy all of it. I want to enjoy the performances. I want to enjoy the duties. I want to enjoy the shopping and the wrapping and the mailing and the baking and the decorating.

But I haven’t had time to do the baking. Or all of the decorating. Or any of the wrapping — other than that which had a deadline to mail — because I’ve had to do and do and do the rest.

I suppose I sound like I’m whining. I don’t mean to whine. I just am sad. I want to cherish this time. I want to savor. I want to sit back and admire the lit tree.

Don’t tell me I’m overcommitted. That’s obvious. What I need to be told is to start all of this earlier. What I need is to be reminded in September to begin addressing the 175 Christmas cards, rather than waiting until the third week of December. To begin in October baking the cookies and storing them in the freezer, rather than despairing right about now that baking will ever happen.

What I need is to breathe.

And so I get up early, read my Bible, pour my coffee, plug in the tree and sit in the dark. I don’t know how to do everything I have to do so I sit and do nothing while I recharge my heart.

And in that moment I glimpse the big picture. I gain the ability to enjoy the piano recital, the Christmas pageant, the speaking opportunity, the theater production, the wrapping, the shopping, the hoped-for baking. Perhaps not to savor as in-depth as I would like, but at least to enjoy the moment. Or at least a portion of the moment.

I can’t help but think about Mary in these busy, Christmasy days. She didn’t have the trappings of Christmas that we have, the obligations and expectations. What she did have was a brand-new baby, delivered in a barn far from home, laid to rest in a manger of hay. She had shepherds coming to visit, customs to observe, a circumcision to arrange, and strangers coming up to her little family to make proclamations and hold her baby.

Not to mention the angelic visits.

She had swaddling clothes to wash and kosher food to prepare. Yet she took all of that craziness and pondered it in her heart. She considered. She stopped to think. She paused to breathe.

Ponder. In this season of craziness, turn off the lights; plug in the tree; grab your Bible, and ponder. Breathe. Savor.

Yes, the obligations remain. But they are manageable when approached with the preface of time spent with God. They can even be enjoyable.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

 “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is