We were all excited. I’d planned a sparkling Christmas family night: soup with cornbread, making popcorn balls, and then cuddling up together for “The Polar Express.”

Ahh. Christmas!

What started it all going downhill? It could be the whining about not wanting to make Dad’s favorite popcorn balls so they could go straight to the movie, or the disobedient hands pawing brown sugar into their mouths. Or was it the baby crying for two hours?

But no, the popcorn balls still wouldn’t have stuck together, and the kids still would have smeared butter on my husband’s dress pants. They would have still fought over which movie to watch. And the feed we lost while watching the movie still would have causes mass frustration, refusing cooperation just like the rest of us. And the haircuts I was attempting still would have left everyone in tears. (Maybe that was a bad idea.) Hmm.

See, December finds me repeatedly attempting Christmas magic. I loved that glittery feel as a child, and I want my kids to feel it, too. Even imaginative traditions, I think, tell them we celebrate this time of Christmas and its great Gift. There’s a lot to be said for the fact that around important times of the Christian calendar, we feast, rest, and do something out-of-the-norm and wonderful.

Unfortunately, in all my efforts to make Christmas this grandiose event, my sin remains: I still snap at my kids, still become a plain old martyr in my exhaustion, and still overcommit myself to the point that someone else pays. Just the fact that it’s Christmastime can make it worse with all the additional “opportunities,” family tensions, and the energy expended in an attempt to make people feel special.

I love the Christmas hymn, “O Come, O Come, Immanuel,” because I can empathize with Israel:

O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Fortunately, if you know the chorus — and the story — you know the climax: “Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

And Jesus has come; He has freed me from the prison of my sin. But my hope won’t be fully realized until heaven and Christ’s second coming, when the reign He deserves is complete in me and in the world.

There may be a lot about Christmas in my chaotic home that emphasizes what isn’t right yet. But as we celebrate the perfection of what did happen, I want it all to get us ready for the conquering King.

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