"It's the most wonderful time of the year...."
So goes the song. But for many people this can be the most lonely time of the year--or the most frantic. And if you're frazzled, it's hard to really enjoy Christmas.
I know that many of you don't celebrate Christmas, but some of the principles outlined here can be applied to other celebrations and to life in general, so please read on.
I fear that in the busyness (and I also struggle with loneliness around the Holiday season), I neglect to focus on the reason that we celebrate Christmas. It might be the:
- plethora of activities
- buying presents
- hustle in the streets and on the internet as retailers make offers that I need to take advantage of right now or miss out on a great deal.....
But the real meaning of Christmas can't be said really any better than it was by Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas as he quoted from Luke 2:8-14.
We're celebrating that Christ came for us as a man to pay for our sins and to walk with us on this road of life.
This past Sunday night our church small group met for our Christmas party. As we pulled up to park our car across the street from the host's home, we saw a beautiful sight greeting us. Above the garage we saw this...
I love Christmas lights, but this was really something.
This is what greeted us as we pulled into our hosts' driveway.
We commented on the lights to the host as we entered his home, and he said that there'd been a lot of comments about his lights in years past. He then told us about this particular comment.
A neighbor was coming home after his wife's passing during the Christmas season. He came up to our host on the sidewalk after seeing the lights, and said that he'd driven home and seen the lights - "Emmanuel / God With Us"--and that he then knew that it was going to be alright.
Not perfect, but alright.
We all need to slow down and think about what this season is all about.
I'm Too Busy
Our family is certainly not very good at this.
- My husband's a professor, and the end of the semester (right at Christmastime) is chaotic.
Finals and grading--and in our case, preparing for teaching the winter term. Busy.
- During a typical "Christmas Break" (I use the term loosely) we add onto all of that the annual visit to the national convention in his field that was almost mandatory. And did I mention that our anniversary is December 30? It's always been a whirlwind.
But there are a few things that I think we've done well to slow down a bit. Note, I said "well"--not "perfect."
I hope they give you some ideas for slowing down this Christmas season.
6 Ways to Slow Down and Really Enjoy Christmas
Limit Gift Giving
I love presents--giving them and getting them. But a number of years ago I heard someone say that a good thing to aim for is to give only three gifts to each child . The reasoning behind this is pretty obvious....if three gifts were enough for Jesus, then shouldn't they be enough for us?
This shouldn't be another legalistic rule. We've done the "three gift thing" for a number of years now, and I have still put a few extra presents in each of our boys' stockings. This past year there were more than three presents each.
The point here is we don't need huge piles of gifts under the tree for each person in order to celebrate Christmas. Really, the more gifts there are, the more distracting the gift giving becomes to everyone.
Celebrate the Twelve (or four, or five) Days of Christmas
In some ways the hype of Christmas morning is really exciting. Kids wake up at 5 am and parents stumble out of bed after staying up until 3 am wrapping gifts:).
Well, the adrenaline wears out pretty quickly and soon everyone is hankering for a nap or a lot of chocolate in order to make it through the day (sounds like a recipe for adrenal fatigue).
What we have done in our home is spread Christmas out. Sometimes waaaaaaay out.
We typically don't have the kids open a gift on Christmas Eve because it seems to rev them up to wake up early the next morning. In fact, things have become so low key about presents in our household that this past year, our youngest didn't even know that it was Christmas until around noon! That's because we just each open one gift each day, starting on Christmas.
This really has helped us tone down the frenzy and the after-Christmas let down.
This has really worked well for us, for the most part.
Mom isn't up until all hours of the morning wrapping gifts, and if you haven't found a few things that you were hoping to get, then you can still buy and wrap even a day or two after Christmas.
Doing things this way, you can even take advantage of the after Christmas sales!
Have a Birthday Cake for Jesus
Probably no explanation is needed here. And again, don't feel that you need to do this. I used to bake homemade cinnamon rolls, a cake for Jesus, a number of homemade pumpkin pies with whole grain crust for the family, and everything at our dinner was homemade and as healthy as possible. Well, reality has set in and I just can't handle all of that anymore.
Jesus can have a cake two days after Christmas, and we don't need cinnamon rolls. Or maybe we can have Black Bean Fudge instead!
Find someone who needs to be reached out to--an elderly neighbor, a lonely college student, a family from out of town, folks whom you wouldn't normally reach out to.
Even if they already have plans, they'll be thankful that you thought of them.
Do Advent Reading and / or a Jesse Tree
We aren't always on time with our Advent readings, but even if we have to go back and make up missed days, it's still a good thing.
We've even planned to do a Jesse Tree but haven't done it yet.
Anything that brings the true meaning of the season into your home is a good thing--as long as it isn't causing a bunch of stress and more deadlines.
This book looks like a great option for reading on your own or with the family.
Put Up Your Own "Emmanuel / God With Us" Lights
I would LOVE to do this.
Every time you pull into your own driveway, you will know that it is going to be alright. Not perfect, but alright. Maybe I need a string of these lights hanging over my kitchen sink!
Do you have a tip for slowing down at this busy time of year?