Imagine with me, it’s December 26th at 8 o’clock in the morning, and I’m sipping on my coffee (flavored with hazelnut creamer of course) in my new house slippers while my children tinker with legos and dolls. I take my seat (almost dangerously close to the fireplace) and begin to reflect on the Christmas season, full of gratitude for His blessings and a month of memory-making. There are plenty of photos to prove that we checked most of the items off our To-Do list, but for some reason I still feel like I missed something...and now a sense of regret surfaces. I didn’t get everything done – I should have planned better. I wasn’t very intentional with prayer and meditation – I should have been more disciplined.... and the list goes on.
Is this scene at all familiar to you? Maybe you couldn’t exactly pinpoint the cause, but you just felt a sense of let-down after past Christmases?
I love how our church intentionally celebrates the “seasons,” and Advent is one of my very favorite to celebrate. But even as we attend church services that focus on the real “reason for the season,” we are still (easily) distracted by all the other “good things” that compete for our attention and ultimately our devotion. We get caught up in the tasks, the to-dos, the gifts, the meals, the photos, and when it’s all over, we take a deep breath and think “Was that it?”
So we recognize the problem, but what do we do?
Pursuing Christmas perfection, with perfect pictures, Pinterest-worthy teacher gifts, and perfectly behaving children (ha!), is clearly not the answer. No, our pursuits should be towards a more worshipful, meaningful, and joyful season. Here’s how I’m approaching the Christmas season this year– join along with me as I focus on 3 aspects: creating expectations, identifying distractors, and crafting a plan.
Create the Right Expectations
What do you want this season to look like for you and your family?. What is most important to you? In what ways do you want to grow (and your family to grow) spiritually? How can you love God and others? Here’s an example:
For the Advent season, I want to....Spend time praying and meditating on the Incarnation, birth story, and death of Christ, both individually and as a family. Give joyfully to our family, friends, fellow church members, and neighbors. Create memories by enjoying the tastes, sights, and sounds of Christmas. Maintain the discipline of rest throughout the season.
Now list what is most likely to distract you from actually experiencing your right expectations. Be honest with yourself and consider asking a friend or spouse for input. Here are a few common distractors:
Technology: social media – Does it take up a lot of your time and/or prevent you from being present in the moment? What about Netflix, television, or online shopping?
Over-committing – Do you tend to try and “do it all?” Do your activities often lead to stress and/or fatigue? Are you too busy to help and serve others well?
Consumerism – Do you place a large emphasis on giving and receiving material gifts?
Craft a Plan
(Perfection is NOT the goal…a more meaningful, God-honoring, and joyful season is.)
Pick a passage of Scripture, devotional, or book to study as an individual and/or family throughout the month
Consider a fast from social media, Netflix, television, or certain apps.
Create and maintain a calendar. Be realistic about what you and your family can and should do - you may need to eliminate things you love or have done in the past in order to not over-schedule. Schedule in specific times to serve and love others.
Set a gift limit, or price limit ahead of time. If it involves kids, consider explaining it to them ahead of time.
Set the stage for great memory-making by engaging the senses: burn a favorite candle, decorate your home for Christmas, enjoy some of your favorite Christmas flavors, and of course, play Christmas music! It’s a great way to meditate and continually re-focus our hearts on the one true beauty of this season, our Immanuel. (I’ve created a Christmas playlist to share with you – follow this link!)
I pray that during this Advent season you would be drawn closer to God, your loved ones, and even your not-so-loved ones :)
I’d love to hear your feedback and other ideas!
Meet the Author!
Taylor is the wife of Council Road's Groups Pastor, Micah White, and mother to Navy and Foster. She works as a PA in Oklahoma City, and is also passionate about serving and edifying the local Church. She most enjoys time with her family, but can also be found reading, teaching, making music, hand-lettering, and hosting gatherings. She loves a friendly debate and a good laugh.