What are you doing today to prepare for Christmas?
If you are like me, you have a jammed-packed planner overflowing with various lists and spilling over with paper scraps full of reminders and details. Our dining room table cannot currently be eaten off of as it is covered with gifts in various stages of being packed and wrapped and shipped. My attention span is extremely limited because my mind seems to spastically and sporadically jump from one topic to another. I guess my dining room table is pretty symbolic of the chaos of my thoughts.
Can you relate?
As I want Christmas to be special for my family, I can easily let my wishes morph into unrealistic expectations that will ultimate increase my stress level and lead to my personal disappointment. I know this, because of experience. Year after year, it seems that no matter what I do to plan and prepare for the holiday, the outcome remains the same.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t feel like I have ever fully failed at the Christmas thing, but I know all too well the taste and smell of my frustration when “things” don’t go as I had envisioned. I am positive my family has seen and felt the ramifications of my depleted joy.
Every year, I am determined that this year will be different, and that this year will be better – I will be better, I will be better prepared, I will be less stressed and more in the moment, I will be more spiritual, more serving, more “in” it . . .
I think God must just smile at me, shake His head, watch me spin my wheels, and wait for me to once again come to a place of surrender – giving up my expectations and definitions of what Christmas should be and accept His for what they are.
I have spent many Christmases with the best intentions relating to the Christmas story in different ways. For example the Christmases that I was pregnant, I felt for Mary and her incredible role in the birth story. I have spent a Christmas season or two simply in awe of the miraculous truth that God would place all of His deity in the form of a needy, helpless infant.
In all these years, God has been faithful to meet me where I was spiritually. I have had wonderful Christmases with family and my faith has grown. My worship was genuine and my offerings of praise sincere. I have been blessed…
Yet, every year I wrestle with expectations, I struggle with stress, I find myself mentally and physically exhausted and, at some point regret that my holiday season was filled with things and events that I approached with a “have to” attitude instead of a “get to” anticipation.
Yesterday, I attended one such event. It was the Christmas Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon for our local pregnancy center. If you follow me online at all, you know this organization, and her mission, are very dear to my heart. I gratefully serve on her board and fully support her leadership. However, in the middle of SO many things running through my head, when I walked in the door, hugged a couple of the ladies and even got in line for the infamous dessert buffet – I was struggling with being fully there. Somehow, this event had become just another item to cross off my to do list and my mind was already jumping to the next thing I needed to get done.
Then something happened. God brought my spirit to a place of surrender.
There was a short program. A beautiful song was beautifully sung. The lyrics while not seasonal, were still very appropriate for the occasion and completely Biblical about persevering as we serve. Then the soloist led us in singing some Christmas hymns. Those lyrics had been typed and copied for us all to see and join in. The Holy Spirit moved and the words I sang seem to come alive. By the last few chords, I was so overcome and choked up, I could not finish singing, “O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” There were a few hot tears leaking out the corners of my eyes. Another sweet saint read the Christmas Story from the book of Luke and I soaked up the words like I had never heard the familiar story before.
The director unexpectedly asked me to close our time by praying aloud for the group. The words I uttered were of thanksgiving and truths that God had been trying to impress upon my heart all week in my devotional times. But at that moment, I realized that I had been so busy preparing for Christmas in so many other ways than in the way that truly mattered.
It is kinda funny to think about celebrating the birth of the Messiah by eating a frosted cookie. (I read that somewhere recently.) In many ways, there are many things we do to celebrate Christmas that really are odd if we stop to think about it. And that is where I am landing this Christmas, this is what I am trying to do to prepare for Christmas – I am wanting to stop and really think about it.
This weekend I was supposed to host a gathering for the board of the pregnancy center. After a quick chat with a few of the members, it was clear to all of us that the planned party was something that was making the season more complicated than it needed to be for many of those invited. The intention of getting everyone together was being lost in the busy bustle of everyone’s holiday calendars and lists. We decided as a group to postpone.
This freed my weekend. Now, I am not grocery shopping, or prepping appetizers or deep cleaning for company. Yesterday evening, today and tomorrow – I have been gifted. It is as though, the Spirit said, “I am giving You this time to soak up the season, to be intentional and to reflect on what Christmas means to God.”
I will use this time to be present as I bake cookies with my daughters – not just rush through it to get it done. I will sit by the tree with my husband and talk of spiritual things. I will allow my thoughts to ponder the truths in the advent devotion I read this morning. I will worship as I drive through town – all intentionally preparing my heart, my mind and my family for Christmas.
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