I got through finals week (barely), and Christmas is fast approaching. There are a lot of reasons why I am excited, but I consider three of them to be the most important.

1. Christmas music

I know some people get annoyed, especially when they start to hear Christmas songs before Thanksgiving. I must admit that I am one of those people who starts listening to Christmas music before it’s even December, but it’s because it makes me happy, and reminds me of what we have to celebrate this time of year. We are celebrating the birth of Christ, who was sent to this earth to save us from our sins, and songs like “Away in a Manger,” “Silent Night,” and “O Holy Night” reminds us of this. There’s nothing quite like the feeling I get while holding a candle in church and singing one of these songs with a whole congregation of people. I am filled with warmth and happiness, and most importantly the love of Christ, which is one very good reason to celebrate this time of year.

2. Christmas cookies

Okay, I know this doesn’t sound very important, but it is, especially to me. I love to bake, and more importantly, I love to bake for others. Christmas is the time when I go all out; I make dozens of cookies, all different kinds, and all intricately decorated for Christmas. My favorite are cutout cookies, frosted with royal icing. I sit for hours and decorate cookies, and it is so incredibly relaxing; I like to call it cookie therapy. I love the look on someone’s face when I come to their door with a plate full of cookies that I made myself. Cookies make great gifts, and there’s no better way to show someone you care than taking the time to make them something special.

3. Family

When I was younger, I used to watch those movies where the families would dread seeing each other because they knew there would be drama and unpleasant interactions, and I used to think my family’s not like that! Boy, was I wrong! My family loves to talk crap about each other and it breaks my heart. I love my family very much, and I look forward to seeing them at the holidays, but after being together for an hour, they start saying mean things about whoever is not present.

Recently, my dad told my family that he had some news about one of our extended family members. He said that because of this news, we need to show them love and kindness when we see them. I was little taken aback, and I said to my dad “why should they expect anything less?” They are our family and they deserve that from us. It’s not only our obligation as Christians, but as human beings. One day someone named Ian Simkins came to Judson and spoke in chapel, and the most important thing he said that day was “Loving others does not have anything to do with whether or not they deserve it.” This quote really stuck with me, and I have made it my life motto. I think about it a lot, and try to treat everyone I meet with love and kindness, and I’ll admit it isn’t always easy, but my one wish this Christmas is that my family will learn to do the same.

I wish I had the courage to call them out on their rudeness, or even get up and leave when they start saying things that they shouldn’t, but for now, I’ll just keep on showing them love, and lifting them up in my prayers.