The dishes are done. The leftovers have been packed away. And as we unload the dishwasher, thoughts turn to Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, shopping lists and Christmas cards and candy canes and decorating ... not to mention a December calendar filled with kids' Christmas programs and office parties and church events.
Added to lives that are already busy, budgets that are already strained, and the impossibility of living up to everyone's expectations, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. So here are some suggestions for easing our way through the season with greater peace and joy, and less distress.
1. Obliterate obligation.
Paul wrote in Romans 13:8, "owe no man anything but to love one another..." Yet we often, especially at this time of year, start functioning out of obligation. There's pressure to do things, buy things, and go places we'd rather not go in an attempt to please others, satisfy some unspoken requirement, or live up to expectations.Doing things out of obligation isn't Christian (it's religious), nor is it satisfying for anyone involved, so we might as well lay it aside in favor of things done from a motive of love.
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." Phil 2:3-4Whether it's bringing the best treats to the classroom holiday party, having the most popular dessert at the church potluck, making sure your Christmas decorations are the best on the block, or getting your kids the best presents, competition neutralizes the very atmosphere of the Christmas spirit. Yes, we probably all have the relative who gloats because he bought grams or dad the best or biggest gift, but let's not join in!
3. Plan on purpose.Take a few moments to consider your purpose this Christmas, and how you plan to pursue it. What memories do you want to create this year? Is it quality time with your kids, one-on-one? Sit down with a calendar and plan it now. If your heart's desire is to serve and give to others, figure out what you can do and when, and set that time aside. If you have filled your calendar with things that matter to you, when something else comes up you'll be able to say, in honesty and without guilt, "We've already got plans that day." (Note, don't forget to set aside time for prayer and personal time, too! And don't violate it!)
4. Give from the heart, not the head.The best gifts are the ones that come from the heart, gifts we're inspired to give, not gifts we randomly fling into a shopping cart to satisfy a list. This year I'm going to try something new ... I'm going to pray over my gift-giving list and ask God how to be a blessing to those names on the page. It might be a gift, or a hand-written note, or something else entirely.
However you celebrate, whatever traditions you have, or want to create, I hope and pray this will be the best Christmas season yet for you and yours, one that will always remind you of the goodness of Christ and the reason for the season.
Mother of four and grandmother of one, Niki Turner is an only child, wife of a former pastor, and writer of fiction, blog posts, Facebook status updates, a tweet here and there, and lots of long grocery lists. She also writes, copyedits, and proofreads for the local newspaper. Her first completed manuscript was a finalist in the 2009 Touched by Love contest.