The presents have been opened and played with. Some have been broken already and others are slated for return. The ham has been devoured. The button up pants have been replaced with drawstring "comfy" pants with extra room. The family is drowsy on the couch watching a movie.
We are all sated with the afterglow of Christmas.
I don't know why I doubted that I would get here -- to contentment and joy.
This week was not good for me. While in my soul I knew "the reason for the season" and I fervently believe in letting "every heart prepare Him room," I honestly struggled to feel it my heart and mind.
Last Friday was the worst. I found myself banging pots and pans around and being generally grumpy with my children and my husband. No one could do anything right. I couldn't do anything right.
Everything everyone did annoyed me.
The entire "Duck Dynasty" Phil Robertson debacle reallly annoyed me.
And I didn't know why.
So I asked God to tell me.
And He did.
The reason I was so out of sorts was my difficulty in acclimating to the consumerism, materialism and "over-the-top-ism" of the Christmas season in the western world.
For some reason, those short two weeks in Tanzania somehow imprinted in my heart in such a way that coming back into all the glitz, guilt and glad tidings was more of an adjustment than I had anticipated.
The huge outpouring of posts and petitions supporting a Christian television reality star and businessman who had put his foot in his mouth only highlighted my sorrow over what I saw as a lack of fervor by these same Christians to champion the cause of the poor and oppressed around the world and in our own backyard.
I found myself in line at Ross (usually one of my happy places) with a cart full of stuff that I wasn't sure that I even wanted to buy and found myself madly throwing more items into it from the shelves lining the waiting area. It was like I was flailing around without purpose.
And I was.
I found myself looking at recipes and cookie cutters and unable (and perhaps unwilling) to find the energy to crack open the pantry and get to work (See? baking should be fun…not "work.")
I found myself almost compulsively scouring Amazon every day to make sure that I wasn't missing some unknown gift that I still needed to get -- even though I had procrastinated pulling out my gift cache that was stashed around the house and evaluating what I had and what I might still need to get.
I lost myself somewhere between Tanzania and California.
And I didn't know what to do.
Last Sunday morning -- Christmas Sunday morning -- I found myself on stage in front of a music stand, preparing to sing on the worship team and to lead the congregation in corporal scripture reading.
And I wondered why it was continuing to be such a struggle for me this year.
Why was it such a struggle to push through the tinsel and trappings and find the Savior -- the "Emmanuel - God with Us" that I know is there?
My eye fell on the scripture verses…and then I saw it.
Everyone involved in "the Christmas story" was engaged in struggle. Mary & Joseph struggled to travel for miles to be registered with an almost full-term pregnancy.
The wise men left comfortable living situations to travel even further -- summoned to a mad king bent on using them to commit infanticide.
A Deity gave up comfort and adoration and writhed and wriggled His way into a sinful world full of pain with a price on His beautiful newborn head.
So, why should it be any different for me? For us?
What I realized Sunday morning is that there is value in the struggle to find the Christ in Christmas.
And maybe more than value, the struggle is necessary.
The struggle strips away everything that would seek to cheapen and devalue something so costly and profound.
The struggle clears my head and my heart of spiritual cobwebs and creates a laser focus on what is vital and necessary to my very soul.
Christ was born!
For a world in need of someone to pull them out of their confusion and set them free.
I well remember the struggle to bring my own children into this world and the immense overflowing, all-consuming feeling that flooded my heart and my body when each of them came forth at long, long last and were placed upon my chest.
If we allow it, struggle will always bring forth joy. Struggle actually creates the opportunity for it to shine in all its marvelous glory.
Which can look like a sinner on her knees on a Sunday morning grateful for grace. Or like the curled up snuggling of a niece who just wants to be close to her aunt whom she hasn't seen much, but still knows she loves much. Or parents who give, give and give….and then give some more and most of it isn't a gift that can be tangibly unwrapped.
Pure and so very simple.
Joy to the World…for He has come!