Christmas always make me think of Disney World. Not because of the famous holiday parades—I’ve not seen one in person despite living only half an hour’s drive away from the Orlando park for the past fifteen years—but for the memory of a summertime visit to its California cousin.
Taking four small kids to Disneyland from our home in Colorado was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I was determined to maximize. Scoring special tickets that got us five days’ admission for the price of two was great. As far as I was concerned, though, it was only the beginning. My kids were going to enjoy this to the hilt, if I had anything to do with it. We were going to wring the place dry.
I prepared for our visit with military precision. I got one of those guerrilla guides that recommend the best way to enjoy the park, depending on the amount of time you have and who’s in your party. I studied it like I was preparing for college finals. Priority lists, spreadsheets, site maps, time lines: You’d think I was at NASA, orchestrating a Mars mission.
On day one we were at the Disneyland gates ahead of opening time, lined up and ready to go. We hit the ground running. First the Swiss Family Robinson tree-house, then Magic Mountain, to be followed by a quick foray into Tomorrowland. All against the flow of most of the other visitors: ha, suckers!
Everything started going pear-shaped about mid-morning. Probably something to do with one of the kids bursting into tears when I told them we couldn’t stop to get a photo with Winnie the Pooh as we passed by. Sorry, but that would delay our arrival at the next checkpoint.
Their mother took me to one side and suggested a little restraint might be in order.
I took a deep breath, threw my master-list away, and took hold of a couple of hands. We had a great final four-and-a-half days, going where whims took us. It wasn’t as perfect as I had planned; it was messily better.
Same with Christmas. We can get so caught up in trying to ensure that it’s picture-perfect that everyone around us ends up with forced smiles on their faces. Hidden scowls kind of spoil the Olan Mills moment.
It’s not even as though all our perfectionist efforts are recreating the original. Just read the Gospel accounts again. Away from home, inadequate accommodation, swirling rumors, unexpected visitors. Hardly a Pinterest moment. Yet in the midst of it—not despite it—Immanuel, God with us.