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Does anyone else besides me create a list of things to do before Christmas?

I know we’re admonished to remember the “reason for season,” and they’re right. But when you’ve got family spread out all over the country, a list, complete with timetable, is necessary. At least for me.

Here’s my list.

Just skim it to save yourself some time.

1Bake cookies.
2.  Send Christmas cards. (Add a newsletter if I have the time.)
3.  Shop for gifts.
4.  Wrap gifts.
5.  Ship gifts before December 15.
6.  Set up the Advent wreath.
7.  Set up the Nativity.
8.  Set up the “kids” nativity.
9.  Put up the tree and decorate it.
10. Put up other decorations around the house.
11. Decorate the walls with Christmas cards we receive.
12. Write my December blog post.

I’ve mentioned the Christmas cookie tradition in our family before. Grown-up sons and daughters-in-law panic if my cookies don’t arrive in the mail. This year, I got smart. I baked all the cookies in time for Thanksgiving! Everyone came home, stuffed themselves, and I froze the leftovers for Christmas.

Good thing. Right after the holiday, I came down with The Cough. It lays me out. No OTC meds can touch it, so I wander in a narcotic-induced fog for a week or more—and there goes my Christmas timetable.

I pared down the list to two “have-to’s.”

1. Set up the Advent wreath. It represents everything that makes Christmas important. Anticipating the Messiah. Light. Hope. Faith. Love.
2. Finish Christmas shopping. I had completed my list of planned gifts, but there were a few blank spaces where I was clueless for those hard-to-shop-for family members. I only had one day—one hour—of energy to dedicate to the task.
I prayed. God answered. One small shop provided beautiful choices for every open slot. Back home, deeply content, I rested with cups of hot tea and read cowboy romances and watched reruns of Columbo for the rest of the day.

I’ve gotten a little better.

Not yet up to par. I have one week before the festivities begin. As I’ve regained strength, the Nativity set welcomes people at the front door. Gradually, seven boxes of gifts have been shipped to destinations across the U.S. It’s not too late to send out cards.

But one Big Question remained: Could I regain enough energy to put up our seven-foot Christmas tree? 

It’s old. When the job is done, it’s the most beautiful artificial tree I’ve ever seen, made of at least seventy branches which must be fitted into the trunk one at a time. A labor of love.

So, I had to ask, just how important is a tree anyway? It’s basically a pagan tradition. Maybe this would be the first year ever when no tree radiated light through my living room window.

Which made me sad.

I asked Jesus for His opinion, and He replied as He often does. “When you look back on this Advent season, which will give you more pleasure? Which will cause more regret?”

I could put up the tree, admire it’s beauty, and probably tire myself out again, or I could rest and enjoy other aspects of the season.
This is what I chose:

I am taking it slow.

Day 1. Assemble the tree. Smile. Rest.
Evening 1. Lights on the tree. Smile. Sleep.
Day 2. Garlands up. Smile. Rest. Ornaments up while playing Christmas music and dancing to Mannheim Steamroller. Smile. Rest. Write this blog. Smile. Rest.
Evening 2. Play Christmas carols. Drink tea. Add the tree skirt and tweak ornament placements. Smile. Rest.Gaze at the beautiful tree, a symbol of eternal life and the Light of the World. Smile. Sleep. No regrets.

I still have gifts to wrap for those who will be with me on Christmas Day. I saved that item on the list for last because it’s my favorite. When my boys were still at home, I’d throw a “Wrap Party,” and they took turns wrapping gifts for each other while treats waited for those not occupied with paper and ribbon.

Now, I throw my own party for one. Cookies on the counter, Christmas music in the background, and my dining room table awash in scissors, tape, tissue paper, wrapping paper, bows, and gift tags.

The list will be completed.

I will check off each item and wear a smile, for my Christmas list is not merely a litany of “ought-to’s.” It’s an inventory of “want-to’s.”

It’s a list of love.

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