Planning for the Holidays

The Christmas decorations have been up in the stores for months, ads are playing on TV, and a suffocating feeling of being overwhelmed is beginning to engulf me. I feel like Scrooge. It’s not that I’m against Christmas—far from it—but I’m very much fed up with the commercialized substitute our culture feeds us. It makes me want to crawl under a rock and stay there until January.

Every year I rebel against spending money we don’t have, baking things I shouldn’t eat, and the self-imposed pressure to decorate the house—knowing I’ll have to put it all away again a few weeks later. Yet I eventually find myself doing all those things anyway.

I avoid shopping all year long. I’ve found that wandering through stores only serves to create a desire for more and a dissatisfaction for what I am already blessed with. Yet it only takes a few trips to the mall and I’m ready to spend, spend, spend.

During most of the year, I have found a reasonable balance between being and doing… I have a full schedule, yet there is time for contemplation, prayer, and Bible study. Then along come the holidays, perhaps the time of year we should most focus on God, and I’m so busy “celebrating” that Jesus gets left in the dust!

Every year I ask: How can we celebrate Christmas, the incredible incarnation of God come as a baby, in a way that glorifies Him, loves others, and doesn’t leave us exhausted? Here are a few ideas for starters.

Communicate expectations

It’s a good idea to sit down with those you share the holidays with and discuss your expectations. What matters the most to each person? Try completing the sentence, “It just wouldn’t be Christmas (or Thanksgiving, or …) without _____!

Bringing your priorities out into the open allows you to be proactive about how your holiday will be celebrated. Try allowing each person to pick one treasured tradition, or perhaps something new they’ve wanted to try, but never had time for. Paring your to-do list down to the bare essentials removes much stress from your life. You can always add things back in, if time and energy allow.

At this point, you may realize that some aspects of your celebration are out of your control. No matter how important a white Christmas is to you, you can’t make it snow. A reality check will eliminate much frustration and free you to relax and enjoy the season as it unfolds.

Serve others

In deciding how you’ll celebrate the holidays, you might want to consider more than your family’s traditions and desires. How can you bless others? Soup kitchens and food banks have an ongoing need for volunteers. Many churches support Angel Tree or Project Christmas Child, or have an “adopt a family” program for Christmas.

Remember whose birthday it is

How can you focus on God in the midst of this season? Schedule in one-on-one time with God before adding anything else to the calendar. As the button reads, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Perhaps you can read part of the advent story after dinner each night. If you haven’t overdosed at the mall, play Christmas carols at home… especially the ones that mention Jesus. If you choose to send Christmas cards, pray for the recipients as you address each envelope.

Share the load

Once you’ve settled on a short list of activities, it’s time to delegate. What if each person took responsibility for their part of your holiday? If Aunt Mabel’s sandwich butter cookies are that important to Dad, maybe he can make them this year. He may find that the time and effort involved out-weigh the result… or maybe not. Involving every celebrant not only spreads the workload, it brings everyone together and makes each participant realize that they’re a valuable contributor to the family.

Take your time

Finally, spread your activities out over the entire season. Advent starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and Twelth Night comes on January 6. Each part of the season has it’s own special significance. Pace yourself, and hopefully you’ll still be sane on January 7.

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