Christmas is upon us. And this festive time of year promises joy to the world and peace on earth.
Often though, the holidays feel less merry and bright than we’d like to admit.
Instead of an overflow of peace, joy, hope and love, December usually sings to the tune of Overcommitting. Overspending. Overeating. Stressing. Exhaustion. Sadness. Grief. Disillusionment.
This year, you don’t need to get to 2024 tired, in-debt, and disappointed. Instead, with some prayerful planning and intentional choices, you can make this season rich in meaning. Whether you are stepping into an extremely busy season at work or at church, experiencing grief from the loss of a loved one, struggling to set healthy boundaries with extended family, or just searching for something more deep and sacred than a commercialized holiday season, now is the time to decide how you want to approach these next few weeks. And perhaps, even more importantly, now is a good time to determine to seek Jesus amidst the varied emotions, expectations, and busyness of the holidays.
Here are some important questions to ask yourself to draw closer to Jesus and truly enjoy these next few weeks:
1. How can I observe Advent in a way that is actually meaningful to my relationship with Jesus?
Advent season is so much more than unwrapping a piece of chocolate each day from a festive calendar or lighting candles around a wreath. It’s an invitation to draw near to Jesus and to experience more deeply the peace, hope, joy, and love His presence and leading in our lives brings. Don’t miss Jesus in all the busyness and feelings that come with the holidays. Get a new devotional or commit to a Bible reading plan. Wake up early to sit by the fire with your cup of coffee and pray– pour out your heart to God. Worship Him with your all, not just with your voice. Bundle up and go on a prayer walk around your neighborhood. Step away from the noise to be in the presence of God and rediscover just how extraordinary the gift of Immanuel is in your life.
2. How can I slow down and create unhurried times of rest and reflection for me and my family over the next few weeks?
Our calendars can fill up so quickly with activities, all promising a jolly and merry time. But you can’t do it all. Even if you love doing all the things. So choose what matters most, and schedule in time to do absolutely nothing. You read that right– nothing. And when you get to the times of nothing, read a book, watch a Christmas classic with the family, bake cookies, go for a hike. You do you. Do what is restful and refreshing. I promise you that these times of nothing will become some of the most precious moments and memories for you and your family.
3. What do I personally need this holiday season? And how can I advocate for that?
I was just speaking with a friend who recently lost her father and her grandmother. What does she need most this year? She needs space and time where she doesn’t have to fake Christmas cheer around acquaintances. She needs space to breathe and spend time with Jesus and with her family. She needs the small, intimate, and low-key this year.
What about you? What do you need? How’s the condition of your soul? Know what you need and have honest conversations with your spouse and/or family to plan accordingly.
4. How can I serve, help or give towards others in a meaningful way beyond buying gifts?
As a kid, I was fortunate enough to wake up on Christmas morning to lots of presents under the tree, and those mornings were some of my absolute favorites. Now, I’m not going to lie, I still love getting gifts, but my longing for something more meaningful than a gift exchange grows stronger with each passing year.
I want to teach my daughter (and remind my own heart) that there is a whole lot more to Christmas than getting presents. I want her to see this time of year as an opportunity to extend hospitality, give generously, and serve those in need of some love and support. This year we are giving financially towards our church’s Christmas outreaches, hosting a Christmas party for our old friends and new ones, and inviting those far from family to sit at our table and enjoy dinner with us. And I’m checking in on my friends who have recently lost loved ones or who are experiencing some pain and loss this time of year.
You can’t do everything, but you can create beautiful memories for those around you this year. So look around, pray, and commit to making a tradition out of serving, including and helping others.
5. Is there anything I am dreading or not looking forward to this holiday season? Why? And do I need to do it? Or can I plan differently?
Are you attending that family function purely out of obligation? Are you committing yourself to certain social events or activities because, well, that’s just what you do or what is expected of you? Certainly, there are some things we need to do in life that aren’t enjoyable, and we do them because they are the right thing to do. But, sometimes we end up doing things not because they are right, but because we don’t want to upset anyone. Or we do them because of unrealistic pressures we place on ourselves. You don’t have to become a martyr to the holidays. Before committing to something you dread, ask yourself why. Ask God to give you wisdom and grace to do what is healthy and honorable. That may look like having an uncomfortable conversation, setting better boundaries, or resetting your expectations. It’s worth it!
6. If wisdom were calling the shots, what would my budget and calendar look like?
This time of year we remember an infant Jesus, born in the lowest of conditions, in the most unexpected of ways, to bring salvation to us all. It’s not about if your Christmas lights look better than your neighbors, or if your kids get the biggest and best presents this year, or if your Christmas cards stand out from the rest, or if you host the chicest Christmas party your coworkers and friends have ever attended. It’s about Immanuel– God with us. It’s about the peace, the hope, the joy, the love only He can bring us. So, remember what matters, and make wise choices about how you will spend your time and your money.