As we enter into this Christmas season, how are you feeling? What is your reaction at the moment to the thought of Christmas? This may give you some sense of how you are travelling at this moment in time.
- Are you filled with peace at the thought of Christmas and carrying the Prince of Peace with you?
- Are you overflowing with love and joy as you begin to celebrate the birth of the creator of love and joy?
- Does the reality measure up to the hopes and dreams or does the hectic pace of the season crowd out the special moments?
Throughout the Christmas Season, I blog about different facets of the Christmas season and preparation. Topics like advent family prayer calendars, Acts of Kindness, Christmas books, Christmas movies, surviving the season, helping children who could easily become overwhelmed during this season etc.
This week, though, I want to focus on entering the season with a great heart. A heart of peace. A heart of excitement for this time of year in our calendar and the true meaning of Christmas. I want to help you reclaim a sense of peace, reflection and enjoyment about this season.
I have listed below some practical tips but I would also love to hear your tips. I love learning more each year, especially as my children grow older and we are faced with new challenges and exciting times and leave some of the old challenges behind.
- Spend time with Jesus
As you spend time with Jesus, try asking two questions:
- “Lord – who do you want to be for me this Christmas?
- “Lord – what do you want me and my family to do this Christmas?”
- Identify any unique challenges this year
Are there any changes this year in finances, relationships, family, work etc that will affect how you celebrate Christmas and the activities and events you participate in this year? Have family moved closer or further away? Have any family members died? Is there a new born in the house? Are finances tight? These things can all affect what we do and how we do things. Be mindful of these things as you plan your calendar.
- Plan the essentials
Sit down with the whole family and have a time of everyone sharing what they love about Christmas. Brainstorm (depending on the age of your children) the essential things, the things that are great, the things that don’t need to be done this year. Agree on the non-negotiables.
An example for our family is the “Road to Bethlehem” Play put on each year. It is absolutely brilliant. Our kids loved it when they were small. Now it is over an hour’s travel time to get there plus the kids have grown older. We will cross it off our list this year.
Something we will definitely keep is the “Carols by Candlelight” on television Christmas Eve. We are still debating whether or not to go in person or just watch at home on the television with favourite snacks and drinks and having a family time in the lounge room that evening.
Evaluate your Christmas traditions, activities and service opportunities. What stays? What goes? Is there a new tradition or service opportunity you wish to incorporate this year?
Identify your priorities and values and this will help you decide what to include in this season and what to exclude. Talk about expectations and feelings. Pray and discuss as a family. This is a great skill to pass on to your kids so that they don’t end up living lives out of balance.
- Fill in the calendar
We have a calendar that we write all our activities on so that we can see at a glance what is happening. We fill in all the essential activities first eg End of Year Dance Concert that we definitely can’t miss as Princess has 9 dances in it. We then look at all the great but non essential activities eg Dance end of year party – great to get to but if you miss it, the earth won’t cave in. We look at the weeks and see it as a whole. Here in Australia, Christmas is also the end of the school year so that adds to the end of year activities.
Can you change or adapt some traditions so that you can still incorporate them into this season?
We also have Matey’s birthday 2 days before Christmas. Every year he has a birthday party so we prioritise that even though it adds to the workload.
- Block in margin
Look at your calendar and mark off ‘down times’ – days when you can just chill at home, afternoons where immediate family is home together just enjoying each other’s company. Mark in time for preparation of food, gifts, decorating etc.
- Ask your family members how you can make Christmas more Christ centred
It can be quite enlightening what kids will come up with as you look at how you can make Christmas more Christ centred. We have one child who loves advent candles and the stopping each week to reflect on God.
We bring out the Christmas books and have a month of reading Christmas stories and this helps us reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
Last year we incorporated a month of random acts of kindness in the lead up to Christmas and this helped us to focus on gratitude and others.
Is there a family devotion you would love to do? If you have smaller children, have you tried the ‘Jesse tree’ devotions or ‘The Truth in the Tinsel’ devotions? Do you light Advent calendars and have a special time reflecting on Christ together each week?
- Try to reduce stress and regain peace
Address the stressful events and expectations with wider family eg what you are doing on Christmas Day, who you are buying presents for etc. Can you limit the number of people you buy for? Can you shop on the internet or give gift vouchers to save time at shopping centres which can increase stress at this time of year?
I find that when I am stressed, it affects my decision-making ability. What may have taken a few minutes, causes me extended angst as I try to make a decision, usually on something that will not matter in a few year’s times. This is a ‘flag’ for me that shows me that I need to address the pressure in my life.
Is there something or someone who always tends to bring conflict at this time? How can you be prepared and change things this year so that conflict is minimised and the time is meaningful and satisfying to all?
Is there anything you are not looking forward to about Christmas?
Is there a lie you are believing about Christmas eg I have to have the perfect Christmas?
Are you feeling immense pain at the moment about a family issue and this is clouding your peace about celebrating the Prince of Peace?
Are you in a good emotional place yourself? Your attitude sets the atmosphere in the home. If you are tired, grumpy, anxious, short tempered, then expect the kids to model that behaviour, taking after you.
I find that during this season it can be the ‘little’ unexpected delays that really show me how I am travelling emotionally. If someone puts added responsibility or expectations on me, if I have to wait in the car an extra 20 minutes for my daughter to finish work etc, these are the times that my emotional thermostat shows me how I am really travelling and what is ‘bubbling away’ under the surface.
Spending time with God and addressing these issues now then creates emotional space and peace for you to be able to celebrate this special time without the emotional baggage tugging at your thoughts.
- Have fun, laugh, celebrate
This is the crux of this season – Jesus came to bring life. It is a time of celebration. How can you keep the reason for the season as your main focus? We have received the greatest gift and we set the example for the rest of our world of influence. How do others around you see you enjoying this time?
What would it look like for your family to celebrate this time wholeheartedly and laughter to be heard?
Intentionally make time for your family to have fun, laugh and enjoy yourselves this season.
What are your thoughts this Christmas Season in how you prepare emotionally?