"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Roman 15:13
December… How is it already December? As a child, I remember thinking that it took forever for this month to arrive, and for the Christmas season to begin. As an adult –well life seems to move at such a fast pace that the weeks seem only like days. And as I looked at my calendar a few short years ago, on December 1st, I was greeted with a mixture of thoughts and feelings. A portion was excitement because just like the childhood version of me; I love Christmas –certainly for different reasons now than way back then –but I still love it.
Unfortunately, excitement wasn’t the only emotion that settled into my mind. I found myself being met with worry, stress, and anxiety too. Why? Because my get-it-done, perfectionist personality would jump into overdrive, and I would feel the need to –well get it all done. By all I mean, the entire house decorated (inside and out), finding the perfect gift to give to everyone that holds a special place in my heart (there are a lot of those), planning parties, attending parties, the Christmas outings, and events, the meals—I could go on and on, but you get it, I'm sure.
I asked myself a series of questions those few years back that changed the Christmas Season for me in the best possible ways. What matters most to me? What brings the most joy to me, my family, my community, and the Kingdom of God? The answers that followed truthfully didn’t match up with where and to what I was dedicating much of my time and energy. Before you call me a scrooge and close the page, let me offer some explanation.
I love Christmas trees that hold beautiful original ornaments, decorations that excite me at first glance, and lights that bring a soothing glow to the room at night.
I am thrilled to search for gifts for loved ones and then anticipate the excitement on their face when they open them.
I am delighted to plan and attend lively Christmas events where we celebrate with our family and friends.
I enjoy all of it! But then afterward it was all over, and my house went back to its pre-Christmas décor. The gifts offered temporary excitement and the events and parties ended leaving only the memory as a picture on my social media page. For the past month, I had hectically rushed, decorated, shopped, attended, planned, and cooked all in a frenzy. I had worried and stressed that it may not all get finished before “the big day”. And though I had planned and attended the most important parties and the bows were perfectly placed around the matching Christmas wrapping paper. The reality is that because of "all the things", I had missed the beauty of the season. I had refused to idle myself and my heart to stop and see the joy that awaits us.
So, what matters most to me? Here goes –
Special time with my loved ones. Surprising someone with homemade cookies or treats that I made with my daughter. An unexpected (much-needed) gift to a stranger. Christmas Eve Church Service with hundreds of beautiful candles that light up the entire Sanctuary. Sitting by the fire with my family and my advent book and preparing my heart to celebrate the meaning behind this beautiful season... The birth of the Savior of the world—that’s what matters. I remind myself every year to Cherish this season. To celebrate it because of the reason that Christmas exists.
I don’t mean to imply that you can’t celebrate Him and at the same time have trees, decorations, and parties. You absolutely can –I do. I still love putting the decorations up, but the exuberance that is displayed in my little girl as she places “her favorite ornament” on the wrong limb right next to the vintage breakable one is now special instead of stressful. I still adore planning and attending Christmas get-togethers, but when time doesn’t allow, and the outcome will be more fuss than it’s worth, we politely opt out and choose to read Christmas stories by the fire in the quietness of our Livingroom. My type A personality still strives to have matching bows and wrapping paper, but when the scotch tape runs out, the little gift is placed in a bag.
The substance and truth of it all lie here—on December 26th (or soon after) I will put all those decorations back into a box, but Christ —He never goes back into a box. He is still the one that reigns on high seated at the right hand of His Father. Though He was born in a lowly stable meant for animals it wasn’t by accident. Jesus that saved my soul from death and despair for all of eternity is my reason to celebrate.
My encouragement to the ones that are feeling stressed and frantic this holiday season is that you just pause and reflect on what matters most. Not what matters most today –but what will matter most for eternity. Are we building and growing traditions that feed the commercial side of Christmas or are we creating moments where we celebrate the gift that little perfect baby would eventually offer us through His sacrifice? Ask yourself if what you are stressed about today will even be remembered next Christmas. If it doesn’t matter, I urge you to remove it and fill its place with something of eternal value for you and your family. I can promise you that my husband and our three amazing children would rather enjoy the season together resting in the magnificence of the Almighty than spend it with their mom rushing and stressed to the point of exhaustion.
Now, every year, I consciously remind myself of what truly matters. I remind myself that the hustle and bustle of this beautiful season will come to an end. And I ask will myself if my family and I will be left with memories that depart from us before the decorations are back in the attic. My hopes and prayers are that we find joy in this season. True Joy that comes from the Father. Joy that comes from abiding in Him. Joy that motivates us to walk into the season after that holding the previous ones close to our hearts because we were left better than when we started. Better because of the meaning of the baby born to a virgin in Bethlehem so many years ago. Because friends –that little baby – He changed everything.
Regardless of where you live, how old you are, or if you are single or married, we all share this commonality. The days leading up to Christmas Day beginning December 1st hold 25 days for each of us. This time allows us to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The beautiful thing about this time is that we have the freedom to make a choice on how we will spend it. Will you stress and rush around in a crazed panic attempting to check off all the boxes? Or will you slow down, rest, and dedicate each of these days to what matters most to you?
This month I will not be sending out a Bible reading plan. Instead, I would like to encourage you to find daily advent devotions to read to prepare your hearts for Christmas and the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you are looking for Advent Devotions, please contact me and I will gladly send a few of my favorites.