By Rae Lynn DeAngelis

As a newly married couple on a tight budget, Gerry and I couldn’t afford much in the way of Christmas decorations the first year we were married. We did, however, manage to scrape together a few dollars and splurged to purchase a six-foot artificial tree.

It was somewhat sparse looking at first, but after a few strands of colored lights and a package of inexpensive ornaments, our little tree had transformed, and we were proud to call it our own.

Eighteen years and two artificial trees later, we decided to purchase a live tree for the first time. We had just moved into our newly built home and wanted to establish some new Christmas traditions. Since our family room ceiling stretched up two stories high, we decided a twelve foot tree would help adequately fill the space.

The freshly cut spruce was so large it had to be delivered to our home on a large flatbed truck. Two burly guys carefully maneuvered the mammoth evergreen into place in front of the two-story window and removed its wire mesh.

Oh my! Apparently tall trees are also very wide trees.

After the branches settled, our first (and soon to be last!) live Christmas tree consumed nearly two-thirds of the living space in our family room. That year “trimming the tree” took on a whole new meaning. We spent the next two hours trying to reduce the tree’s circumference to a more manageable size.

I love Christmas! It really is the most wonderful time of year. I enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of the season: peace on earth and good will towards men.

And yet, I sometimes find myself feeling overwhelmed by the many traditions surrounding the holiday. There’s so much to do: putting up the tree, decorating the house, sending out cards, hosting parties, baking cookies, scheduling festive activities, and shopping for presents. I sometimes wonder. Have we left room for baby Jesus in the manger?

While it’s true that holiday traditions are meant to enhance the season, if we are not careful, much like our over-sized Christmas tree, our intended traditions might end up consuming more space than we anticipated.

As I’ve matured over the years, I’ve learned to let some things go. If I don’t get Christmas cards out, it’s not the end of the world. If I don’t have time to make homemade cookies, Break and Bake cookies will do. This year my husband and I are even passing the torch to our daughter and son-in-law as they host our family’s Christmas Eve get-together. All of this is leaving me much more margin to focus on that which is most important!

Trim away any unnecessary activities this Christmas and enjoy the real reason for the season—Jesus.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:20)

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)