I like to have the house all clean and tidy before we decorate for the holidays. Of course it doesn’t stay that way for long. The regular toy-book-paper-musical instrument clutter accumulates again. Decorations get arranged and rearranged and played with and misplaced. I try fairly hard for a few days to keep things organized and looking the way I would like it to look.
And then quickly I am reminded that the living we do in this house — the learning, playing, creating, and mess making that goes on here on a daily basis — isn’t going to cease just because I’ve put up some lights and garlands. The house isn’t going to stay any tidier during the Christmas season than it is during the rest of the year. And that’s fine. The nativity sets, the Jesse tree, the lights, they’re still there amidst the clutter of our everyday life. They still stand out as reminders of what’s most important. They’re no less meaningful for the mess all around them; in fact, I think perhaps there’s a metaphor in there somewhere, in the way my kids incorporate the symbols and reminders of this sacred story into our own messy, common, everyday lives. Perhaps it’s a lesson that’s worth remembering long after the decorations are packed away for the year.
And anyway, once darkness falls and the lights are sparkling, it’s much harder to see the rest of the mess.