Do you remember the segment on Sesame Street where they presented a zoomed-in view of an ordinary object? Then you were supposed to guess what it was?

You couldn’t recognize it at first, because the camera came in so close, it distorted the picture. The focal point is only one small portion of the object. Its details become the entire picture. Then your mind interprets the part as a whole, and renders it something completely different than it actually is.

That’s what often happens to Christmas. You have to take in the entire picture, to view it clearly and appreciate its true beauty.

If you start planning too soon, you zoom-out too far and all the details seem meaningless. Zoom-in too close, like the days before, and it all becomes distorted.

That’s when we become zeroed-in on one aspect and Christmas is in danger of becoming hollow and superficial, which is the complete opposite of what it is supposed to be — and what children need it to be.

Last minute shopping is the usual default focal point. That’s also when we fall in the trap of over-buying, debt and stress.

Focusing on just the gift aspect doesn’t just do damage to your bank account. I’ve heard more than one person complain, and become hurt, because of the gifts they were given — usually by a spouse.

While that sounds shallow, it’s not. Gifts wrapped in thoughtlessness do more damage than good. Ask the lady whose husband shops at the hardware store three days before Christmas — she’ll tell you who’s selfish.

In “13 Week Countdown To Christmas: When Something’s Just Not Right,” I explained that I love the “feel” of Christmas. I truly enjoy creating an atmosphere in my home that illuminates what Christmas means to our family. However, I get in trouble when I wait to start planning until I get in the mood for Christmas.

With 12 weeks to go, it doesn’t feel a bit like Christmas — frankly, I’m not in the mood yet. But we have the advantage of the right distance to view it with the proper perspective.

Let’s create a Christmas that our families will cherish.