You might remember it, the Martha Stewart “Living” craze. Decking the halls with handmade boxwood garlands grown in your backyard while the family gathers around the kitchen table, toddlers cutting wire and weaving a holly laced masterpiece for your banister. Or, perhaps you bought a few chickens and built a coop only to be told by police that suburban farming is forbidden on plots of land under an acre. I fell in love with Martha Stewart’s perfect image of home in 1996 and I paid the price one Christmas.
After studying my reservoir of “Living” magazines during the fall prior to my in-laws coming, I knew this would be our most beautiful Christmas ever. My mind was swimming in gourmet menus, elaborate decorations and enriching holiday activities suggested for family fun. I knew I couldn’t execute this grand vision alone so I enlisted my husband to “help” in the evenings for two full weeks leading up to their arrival. They were his parents after all. We forced ourselves to stop at 1:00am each night/morning after drinking pots of echinacea tea, praying that Martha’s vision of beauty would keep us healthy until Christmas morning.
During those two weeks we spray painted gold all our dried hydrangea and made garlands for the dining room, filled the fireplace with dozens of forced narcissus bulbs, dipped chocolate onto styrofoam cups until it formed a perfectly pure, white chocolate cup which we stuffed with mousse and garnished with a holly leaf, from our yard, of course. Take a deep breath, we were just getting started. By Christmas dinner, fresh goose with reduction sauce and phyllo dough wrapped mushroom “presents” graced each plate, my mother noticed me dozing off at the dinner table. It all looked grand, but exhaustion kicked in. Martha’s magazines never explained how to combat fatigue while executing ideas which she supported with a massive staff at her multiple homes.
After the guests packed up and headed home in a snowstorm, I knelt by the side of my bed and cried out my confession. “Lord, how did I lose you this Christmas? Please forgive me for making the external appearance of our home more important than your humble birth in Bethlehem. I ask for the strength to keep you at the center of our home celebrations, that your light and truth might shine brighter than the lights on our Christmas tree.” What a mess I’d made of Christmas by cowering to the ways of the world and seeking Martha’s glory instead of the glory of God. I left behind the empty boxes, strands of Christmas lights strewn across the living room floor and stepped out into the crystalline beauty of fresh snow and tart winter air. With every crunch underfoot He reminded me, “Though your sins are as scarlet I’ve washed them white as snow.” Isaiah 1:18.
I’ve never invited Martha back for Christmas. Instead, willing myself to forego the temptation of creating the perfect outward Christmas appearance and allowing him to “Come and make our home with us.” John 14:23. Let the events unfold in the Holy Spirit this holiday season with a flexibility, grace and ease that only comes when Jesus keeps His place at the head of the table and in the heart of our home.