And then morning comes and they're raring to go but somehow I struggle to shake the sleepiness off.
This is my ideal morning: I wake up before the kids after 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I have coffee and some quiet time, tidy anything left around from the night before, and prepare the kids' breakfasts. Then I turn on some music and let it drift up the stairs until they wake.
This is morning lately: Sam coughs into the monitor, loud, and cries. Vava stirs, and joins him. The cacophany manages to penetrate my (oh so blissful!) 2-hour sleep-coma, and I find my feet hitting the floor for the fifth or sixth time since I went to bed. I carry a gigantic kid in each arm, counting each stair because my eyes are too heavy to open. The sixteenth step is the floor and I can put them down and zombie-walk toward my coffee (thank you, Patrick!).
I shouldn't even be writing about this. Parents with fussy sleepers will shoot me - because my kids both soared through sleep-training with ease, and when everyone's healthy and all things are normal, they both sleep for a solid, uninterrupted 11-hour stretch. So I'm used to being totally spoiled, I know.
I was whining to Patrick about how tired I was, how tough it is to get up every time Sam coughs, how annoying that Vava wakes wide-eyed and wants a bottle for sleep to resume ... when it hit me. This is what comfort and joy looks like. You wanna keep Christ in Christmas?
Because I've been thinking about that (bossy and dreadful) phrase we see every year about this time ... Keep Christ in Christmas.
I don't know what the slogan-slingers mean, exactly, when they say that. Are they protesting the shorthand X-mas? Are they rejecting the generic Happy Holidays? Are they wishing for a little less Santa Claus and a little more Baby Jesus? I'm not really sure. But it made me think.
What am I celebrating, and how?
I'm celebrating the Saviour of the world, born of a virgin, laid in a manger, given for all humanity. I'm celebrating God's generosity by giving gifts, celebrating Jesus' coming to the world by hanging up lights, celebrating His quest to bring many sons to glory by making special effort to spend time with - and love - family.
But how did God celebrate that first Christmas? I'm not trying to be blasphemous or anything, but when I wonder what His Christmas was like, I think it was a little bigger on the sacrifice and smaller on the may-i-have-more-gravy-please. He celebrated that first Christmas with a gift. A costly gift. A sweet baby gift. And he wrapped that gift up in the silver paper of starlight, the golden ribbon of angel-song. Heaven's perfect lamb. He gave Him to us ... and that Christmas, Heaven was a little emptier. The Son, poured out for our redemption.
When I think about Christmassy feelings, I think of things like a warm house, lots of delicious things to eat, twinkly lights, cozy clothes, happy laughter. I think about the security of being inside when snow howls outside, nibbling something dipped in caramel or cheese. I remember the Christmas when Patrick and I fell in love, and the heart-stopping wonder of belonging and foreverness. I don't really think about getting up in the middle of the night for weeks on end. About wiping runny nose after runny nose and changing soggy bums. About preparing her bottle when I'd rather be turning my pillow to the cool side. I don't think about putting myself last.
But that, really, is the spirit of Christmas. Isn't it? Giving your best for someone else's blessing? Like God did. It's not about surrounding ourselves in comfort and joy, but others. Not about feasting and filling ourselves (all fingers pointing at me, I know it), but, in honour of Jesus who gave Himself as the Bread of Life for starving souls everywhere, giving food to the hungry and clothes to the naked and love to the lonely. And my crib-bound babies, crying and lonely and hungry in the wide dark night, are the nearest needies I know. But there are more too - homeless and hungry and cold and I don't even have to look outside of my neighbourhood to find opportunities to pour out.
Keeping Christ in Christmas starts here. When the monitor carries the sound of my midnight babies, I can bring comfort. When I'm buying groceries, I can buy for the food bank too. When I plan parties, I can search for the lonely to invite. When I make a Christmas list, let it be for giving - not receiving. I might scrupulously say Merry Christmas and sing Silent Night more than Jingle Bells and buy verse-engraved presents from the Christian bookstore but if I'm not giving with His sacrificial love, I'm not keeping Christ in Christmas.
I'm praying for eyes to see the corners where I can shine a little merry brightness. Looking for someone who needs a little comfort & joy. I think there are two little squawkers in the middle of the night that could handle a Christmas-hearted mama and some joyful self-sacrifice. He's already blessed me with comfort and joy ... so You know God's going to ask me to be like Him ... and pour it out.
God rest ye merry, gentle readers :).