Seven Days until Christmas
Not to mention somewhere in there finding time to buy presents and bake cookies and see Santa with my boys.
I think many fellow parents can relate to this feeling of Christmas angst -- that somehow it's never quite as good as we remember it being as kids.
My parents used to take me and my brother up to Biwabik, MN, each December. We stayed at a ski resort and visited the local Christmas festival. As a kid, everything was magical - from the lighting of the tree in the tiny city's downtown, to cheese strudel and making ornaments.
I bet now I'd see things differently, with the haze of memory and nostalgia removed.
This year I remember the magic of our first white Christmas with Jacob, in Chicago in 2013. We took the train north to have hot chocolate and visit Santa on the Polar Express. We had breakfast with Santa. I even convinced Ben to attend an old-fashioned Christmas celebration.
That year on Christmas morning, 1-year-old Jacob woke us up by singing Jingle Bells over his baby monitor in his crib.
I don't think it gets any more magical than that.
Except that year our family wasn't yet complete. 2015 meant our first Christmas with baby Joshua in Orange County, Calif. I came back from maternity leave just in time for Christmas Eve, and got to share in worship leadership with my dear friend, Pastor Bob Mooney.
Last Christmas, amid reviewing edits for my book, Red State Christians, I was preparing to preach Christmas Eve to nearly 1,000 people, over family services at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan.
At the time, I was working less than half time at Easter as Teaching Pastor, and I remember tearing up in our pastors' meeting when I was asked to preach Christmas Eve's biggest services, at our contemporary site.
I remember that day, like I remember so much, as magical. My brother and his then-fiance, now-wife, Bianca, made it in from Chicago just in time for worship to begin. They snaked through the crowd to sit with my parents and Jake and Josh. It was my third time preaching and maybe the most special, to be there with my family in the magic of the moment.
As I read these notes I realize that Christmas always became magical in the end -- when I let go and loved my loved ones and sang Silent Night and held up my one tiny candle.
Admittedly I don't feel as magical this year, at this moment. I'm scrambling to prep two sermons and two worship services at a brand-new place, where I don't yet know the traditions or customs, and I'm learning names and traditions on the fly.
Wednesdays and workdays for church leaders and probably for all of us this season can seem dark and void of the promise of the Savior who brings hope, peace, joy, and love.
Still, like in The Grinch Stole Christmas, Christmas seems to come anyway - almost in spite of us and our worry and concerns.
Jesus came anyway, in spite of King Herod conspiring against him, and the lack of room at the Inn or parents who had been properly married.
So then today, as I sit in my cozy office overlooking snow and prairie -- remembering offices and Christmases and churches past -- I take a moment to breathe.
But Jesus is already with me. And the magic comes most powerfully when I realize I don't need to make it myself.
Merry Christmas! Thanks for reading this year.