Christmas preparation for the busy soul

When did stress and Christmas become so closely linked? 

Few of us set out to overcrowd our schedules, spend too much, eat way too much, or see the season go by so fast that all we retain are blurred memories of no particular quality. We end up in January, vaguely let down and aware that we have somehow (again) missed the point – the joy of our Savior’s birth and its implications for Christians all over the world.

I was determined not to let that happen this year, so I am going to try a couple of things.

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Re-orient my viewpoint

The first idea is one I read about in a waiting room magazine article. Before the holiday season began (for many of us, that’s before Thanksgiving, although it’s still not too late) I sat down with my family and a calendar.

We discussed past Christmases and what traditions, events and environments highlight the season for each person. A particular food, hosting a party, shopping and lunch, attending a concert, baking cookies, decorating? We discussed what we could do without; was it a busy-ness that caused enough stress to offset the enjoyment? For example – if sallying forth as a family to pick out the Christmas tree is a cherished tradition, keep it. If the office party doesn’t gladden your heart – just causes you to overindulge – that’s a miss. If you like lots of visiting, but fret about keeping the house spotless all the time in case someone comes by, have an open house on one night and do the majority of your entertaining then.  

We asked the question: Are we doing this because we want to, or because we feel we have to? If the answer was because we felt obligated, we removed that item from the schedule this year. Once a consensus was reached about what traditions, events, etc. would be included in this year’s season, we wrote them down on the calendar. There are open days, family time, and a (reduced) number of events scheduled. I hope that the physical reminder of where my time goes will accomplish several things; I’ll know the important things are accounted for, it will build anticipation for the scheduled events, and it will allow me to build in time to relax. 

The point is to spend my time with a goal in mind – to keep the Reason for the season in the center of my celebrations. I am taking back the time this Christmas, and consciously spending it only on those things which could make a shiny memory-ornament.

Re-orienting my viewpoint starts with acknowledging and emphasizing the symbolic nature of the holiday traditions. On the surface, eating special foods, giving gifts, and decorating are fun activities in and of themselves. But there is so much more to them than the activity, and when we do them without due consideration and reflection, we lose the richness they would otherwise provide to the celebration of the season. 

Intentional action is the key. The Christmas tree is more than even the best decoration; the evergreen nature of the fir tree stands for eternal hope. Pagans used fir boughs to remind themselves, in the dead of winter, that spring would soon renew the earth. As Christians, our eternal hope is our renewal in Christ Jesus. The wreath on the door? A reminder that God has no beginning or end. Lights strung on our homes and on the Christmas tree? A call to remember He who is the Light of the world. Special foods and feasting are to cause us to reflect on the goodness and provision of a generous God. Decoration is celebration; and the gifts we give – lovingly chosen to suit their recipients and given, after much anticipation, in joyous circumstances – are surely a reflection of the gift to us that God made of His Son.

My favorite decoration is my Advent wreath, and the progression of the burning candles heightening the anticipation of the celebration of the Christ Child’s arrival. For me, candles also serve as a point of calmness and quiet, serene beauty. Not to mention, an allegory for a life consumed in the shedding of Light to all who would see.

I believe intentionally re-investing celebratory gestures with Christian meaning will bring back the wonder of the holiday we had when we were kids and believed in our hearts that Christmas was special. Now that I am an adult, the “special” is more than ‘what will I get?’…it’s recognition of what I’ve already got.

I’ll let you know how it turns out!

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