In the last few years, I have made an about-face when it comes to Christmas. Once upon a time, Christmas was my absolute, hands-down favorite time of year. And my absolute, hands-down, favorite place to be at Christmas time? The mall. Any mall would do. I relished the decorations, the music, the crowds, the sales, the Santa photo-ops. I would bump through the crowded stores with a smile on my face, wishing my fellow bumpees a Merry Christmas.

Yes, I know. I was a little annoying, like one of those dancing Christmas elves.

I tinseled the tree, festooned the windows, played holiday music, baked Christmas goodies, attended holiday parties and concerts. I was a bona-fide Christmas junkie.

My name is Renae, and I am a holiday-holic. Or at least I was.

Somewhere along the line, Christmas lost its wonder. At some point, I began to view the mall not as a holiday Mecca, but as a dark and menacing Christmas jungle. The word “Christmas” began to bring stress and anxiety instead of joy and peace.

Maybe it was the fact that I usually wait until December 15 to start making my homemade gifts. Or that I couldn’t say no to any party, any program, any volunteer position. Or that I felt each gift had to be gift-wrapped, not gift-bagged. Whatever the reason, the pendulum has swung to the opposite side. Now, toss a little tinsel on the tree, and I’m good.

But not really. The whole Scrooge thing doesn’t fit me well. Like any recovering junkie, if I get a little taste, I crave more. And more and more until things get out of control, and the pendulum rocks back to the North Pole. There’s got to be some kind of balance, some kind of middle ground between Elf and Grinch, right?

It’s my own fault. If Christmas doesn’t bring peace and joy any more, it’s because I’ve forgotten the source of that peace and joy. Somehow, Christ has gotten lost in the tinsel and wrapping paper and parties. I’ve forgotten that the beauty of Christmas isn’t in the presents and bright lights and festive music. The wonder of Christmas lies not in the chaos, but in the calm.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Christmas is a celebration! The birth of God’s Son should be the greatest, grandest, most elaborate party of them all! But I wonder if I’ve placed too much focus on the festivity, and not enough on the reason for that celebration? If I can somehow find a way to keep my focus on God’s gift to us, instead of on my gifts to everyone else, I’ll rediscover my Christmas spirit. After all, it is only through His gift, given so simply in a manger with a single star as a decoration, that true peace and joy can be found.

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.