Somehow the “happiest time of year” has become the most “stressful time of year.” With all the demands and expectations just mentioning the word “Christmas” can tense us up. It shouldn’t be that way! Honestly, when we attempt to redecorate the entire house, send meaningful hand-written correspondence to our full contact list, make fiddly cookies and treats for our co-workers and acquaintances, discover a deeply meaningful gift for each of our loved ones, and attend every school concert, Christmas party, and church gathering, it’s easy to see how we’ve lost our way a bit.
As we begin this Christmas season, here are four ways to help bring back the joy of the Christmas season (and some sanity).
- Plan ahead. This is the first week of December, so it’s not too late to pull out your calendar and mark things down. Schedule your time. Know who and with whom you are going to spend time. Remember, if you don’t plan your time, someone else will plan it for you.
- Set boundaries. No one wants to be a Grinch, but you simply can’t do everything. It’s okay to say no. We make the mistake of trying to please everyone. Christmas seems to cause our expectations to soar, so guard against overspending and over-committing. Give yourself permission to say no just as often as you say yes to activities. As pastors and ministry leaders, it’s easy to feel like your attendance is mandatory at every event. Take a few minutes to decide if your attendance is crucial, or if another leader can attend.
- Take care of yourself. When we get over-busy (like we so often do at Christmas), good habits can get tossed out the window. Keep your routine as much as possible. Make time to rest and exercise. Watch what you eat. Also, if you feel stressed or overwhelmed about something, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Seek Jesus. Sadly, we have to be reminded to keep Christ in Christmas. A couple who were Christmas shopping came upon a nativity scene. One commented, “I can’t believe it; those Christians are butting into the holiday season.” I not sure if that’s a true story, but somehow Christ gets marginalized at Christmas. Anything we can do to get our attention back on Him is a good thing. Have family devotions centered around Advent. Read the Christmas story. Attend church (and invite someone). Look for ways to be generous and give of yourself to others.
BEFORE YOU GO
So, what are some other ways you are surviving the season? How can we make Christmas more about Christ? I’d love to hear from you!
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The best Christmas ever was the one I spent in Ethiopia. I was working for an aircraft company flying relief aid during the height of the famine in the early 80’s. It was back in the time before instant messaging or Facebook and phone calls even were limited. The first time Christmas was brought to mind was only a few days before it was due. So Christmas was a special day, made so much more meaningful because of the absence of any hype or pressure. We took a rare day off and shared a meal, pulled together by everyone sharing the few treats we had. It was a small, diverse collection of aid workers from all over the world and we had a great day of laughter and sharing stories of christmases celebrated many different ways, but all centered around a love of what God has done for us. What was most moving was the joy expressed by our Ethiopian friends who, from our perspective, had very little to be joyful for. I learned so much more from them than I ever contributed. For years, after Christmas got more and more out of control in our family because we focused on our kids and doing what the world convinced us was what you do to make the holiday special for little ones. This year we decided as a family to forego the hype and celebrate what is important. Too bad it took us so many years to get it right. Cammy
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