Dollar Store Christmas

 

The house is still…I’m the only one awake at 6:15 on a Saturday morning and I’m flummoxed as to why I’m even awake, yet here I sit — taking in the quiet, the peace, the reflection.

Our stockings are hung carefully over the fireplace and the tree bears the fruit of ornaments that survived the Great Crash of 2015. It’s sparser now, but I’m endeared to it more. Now we have a story to tell every Christmas and can hoot and holler as we “Remember that time our gorgeous and enormous 8-foot tree fell and Paxton cried that Santa wouldn’t come anymore?” And Greg will do a (not so) hilarious impersonation of my reaction as it fell which will tickle the kids to no end, and then Jaana will pretend to slow-motion run to catch the tree like Greg did, and Paxton will pretend to spill his hot cocoa like Jaana did when the tree crashed just a foot and a half from her. And we’ll all have a good laugh at each other’s expense in the best possible way.

The nativity set includes shepherds whose heads have been superglued back onto their bodies and most of the animals were too busted up to keep. Sometimes Simon, our elf, hangs out in the crèche to be a part of the scene and sometimes a Storm Trooper battles the boy and the sheep. One of the wall hangings that boasts a deer in a winter scene came from the Dollar Store, as did the red mercury glass candle holder, some of the replacement ornaments and picture frames for the kids’ Santa pictures. My pine candle that smelled so good in the (not Dollar) store now gives off no scent at all, but I light it all day anyway, because that gentle flicker is calming in a way I don’t quite understand.

The train in the snow-covered Christmas village stopped circling years ago and now makes a clicking sound when we turn it on, and yet we always do because it lights up so prettily and the clicks become a part of the everyday chatter in the house. There are still no Christmas throw pillows or special Christmas dishes, despite resolutions annually that “I’m totally buying them this year no matter what.”

Yes…it’s all busted up and piece-mealed and not Pinterest-worthy in the least. But it’s home and it’s mine and just sitting here on a Saturday morning at 6:30 taking it all in fills my heart to overflowing. Another imperfect Christmas — just as they’ve all been since the first one 2,000 years ago.

I realize, on this quiet, reflective and peaceful morning, that’s exactly what makes my heart burst with joyful tears every morning as I gaze at our manger-ish living room. As I soak in all the imperfections we’ve collected from year-to-year, I see the not-so-catalog-worthy presentation…the amateurish hodge-podge passing as “decor,” and I realize I love it simply because it’s not perfect. It’s not at all how I would design it if I were starting from scratch with a Restoration Hardware catalog…and yet, is that not the entirety of the Christmas Story? Jesus — God Himself — came into a Dollar Store knock-off of a kingdom and dwelt among us. He came to fix his home, His tabernacle among us — not the perfect, the beautifully-presented or the worthy ones. He came to us — that Greek word being ego: He came to make His home amongst our egos and set us free from a Pottery Barn-perfect Christmas and life; to shatter the pride we get from a self-made and high-priced kingdom; to bestow on us peace and contentment in an imperfect presentation, available to all because He simply walked in and declared, It’s on the house. Bill paid in full.

Maybe today, you look around your house and notice your tree doesn’t look like it belongs in a store window, and your nativity has been replaced with Barbies and Superheroes and your flameless candles don’t flicker like they’re supposed to. Maybe today, instead of feeling less-than because it’s not perfect, you feel a kinship to Christ because His living room wasn’t perfect either. Maybe that candle that doesn’t smell still burns to remind you of the Light of the World, and you suddenly (finally?) understand why it’s so calming.

Maybe today, your heart begins to fill to overflowing because you realize the spirit of Christmas isn’t in the items themselves, but in the stories they carry, and how they all point you toward The Story of the season and all year through. Maybe today, you embrace your Dollar Store Christmas because you’re in good company — Jesus had one, too.

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