I’m writing to you today next to the soft glow of the Christmas tree! I can hardly believe Christmas is already here. It’s my absolute favorite month of the whole year, starting THIS WEEK, and I’m really excited about all of the stuff that will be going on. There’s no doubt that things can get a little wild during December, especially when you have kids and you have forty different parties and programs and events to go to. And, as much as I love all of that, I have been known to let the busy-ness get in the way of having the kind of Christmas that I really WANT to have: the kind that is focused on Jesus, on glorifying His name, and on enjoying the time with my little children during these years that can only be described as magical.
A few years ago I got so caught up in all of the things that I needed to do that I found myself spending the whole holiday checking things off of my way too long list. I didn’t look forward to or really enjoy anything. I just spent the entire month of December wanting all of it to be over. I decided that year that I was never going to have another Christmas like that. When it was over, I felt like I had missed the fun of the whole thing, just because I said yes to too many things that didn’t matter instead of reserving some time for our family to really experience the joy and peace of Christmas. There was nothing peaceful at all about my month of dreading one event after the other. So, since that time I made some fairly practical changes in our December lives. Maybe you need to make some similar changes this year!
I moved all of the must-do events that I was in charge of to the beginning of the month.
Every year, we host a Christmas open house for our church. We decorate our house to the hilt and recruit some amazing church members to help with delicious treats, and then we open our doors and have a great evening of visiting with our church family. We also host a staff Christmas party each year. At church we do a children’s Christmas pageant that Chad and I and some other wonderful church members are in charge of. Since I am a major player in all of these events, I make sure that we do them as early in the month as possible. In fact, all three of these are happening this week! It helps me so much to get my big responsibilities done early in December because I can enjoy them more, knowing that I still have plenty of month left to focus on my family and the kids’ various Christmas activities.
I stopped sending Christmas cards.
I wrote an entire post about this decision here. As much as I love Christmas cards, I decided they were one non-essential that I would go ahead and remove from my list.
I hire someone to clean my house, once a year. In December.
There’s something wonderfully freeing about letting a sweet, cleaning-wizard of a woman clean your floors and toilets in December. I don’t know what it is about it, but leaving your house in its normal, kid-stained state and returning a few hours later to find it smelling like magical cleaners and sparkling in every corner, well, it’s just about guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit. I consider this a little Christmas gift to myself, and I do this on my open house week. This way I can focus on the fun stuff (decorating), and I can also help a dear lady in our town get a little extra Christmas spending money. I will gladly give up other comforts this month in order to splurge on this time and sanity-saving treat.
I stopped dreading events and started making a point of enjoying them.
It can be easy to get a Bah Humbug attitude during the holidays, even if you truly love Christmas, like I do. So, I decided to make the conscious effort to just relax and enjoy all of the different events. I think the key to doing this is just taking one day at a time. Instead of looking at the calendar and getting dizzy thinking about how there are forty things to go to, just look at what you are doing today. And, then really try to be in the moment. Stop and appreciate how your kids will never be these particular ages again. Really enjoy the concert where your fifth grader is playing “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” on the recorder. Consider how cute it is when your first grader sings “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” Instead of sitting at every program and party thinking about all of the things you should be or could be doing, just enjoy where you are. Trust me, I’ve done it both ways, and the whole season is more fun when I put the to-do list out of my mind and just live in the moment in front of me.
I started taking real steps to focus our family on Christ during the holidays.
I’ve got a couple of ideas for you that have helped our family think about Jesus in the midst of all of the busy-ness of the season. Santa comes to our house, but I always want to be sure that we are talking a lot more about Jesus than about Santa at Christmastime. Once my kids got big enough for us to do some things together to help focus our hearts on Him, I found that it added so much meaning to my Christmas, too, to talk about the Savior and spend time contemplating the miracle of His coming to earth.
Every Day Emmanuel
This is a downloadable resource from the makers of What’s in the Bible? I used this a few years ago with my kids, and it is truly one of the best kid-friendly advent resources I’ve seen. You have the option of making a fun calendar with a different activity or treat every day, and it takes the kids through all of the Sundays of advent, complete with online videos that answer questions like Why do we call it Christmas? and Why do we have Christmas trees? It even talks about Santa in a meaningful way, with no spoilers. Everything you need is downloadable and printable. This is a truly fun and creative way to make Jesus center stage, even for younger children.
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
This beautifully illustrated book by Ann Voskamp is a simple way to celebrate advent with your family. Last year we simply read from this book each night before bed, and we all loved it. In conjunction with this book, you can do a Jesse tree, which is a fun tradition to start with your kids. I would recommend this book if you have kids who are middle-elementary aged and older.
25 Reasons Why Jesus Was Born
This is a FREE downloadable advent devotional from AWANA. I was blessed to be a contributor to this little guide to thinking through the reasons that Jesus came. Download this and make it part of your personal Bible study time this Christmas or read it each day as a family. I wrote Christmas day: Jesus came to be God With Us. I think you’ll enjoy the variety of writing styles, voices and stories. I plan to make this a part of my own daily reading this Christmas!
Finally, I guarded my time.
In the end, I decided that not everything has to be done at Christmas. Not every little decoration has to be perfect. Not every food has to be homemade from scratch. Not every parade and show has to be attended. Not every gift has to be wrapped in a way that would make Martha Stewart proud. Christmas isn’t about showing off or being the perfect mother or creating some kind of magazine-ready magical world for your family. Spend time with your kids giggling on the couch. Watch silly Christmas movies while you eat two minute microwave popcorn. Teach your kids that Jesus is the only gift that really matters. And, have a truly merry Christmas.