For some, the anticipation of Christmas is not always pleasant. With calendars stuffed to the brim with trimmings and festivities, suddenly the merry season doesn’t feel so bright.
Somewhere between November and December, I morph into a crazy person filled with comparison and complaint. With parties to plan, cookies to bake, stockings to stuff and gifts to wrap, my spirit of thanksgiving can easily turn into the most primitive bah humbug.
So when my husband asked how he could unsubscribe from my RSS feed of complaint this year, it left me with a sobering thought.
I was the grinch stealing Christmas this year.
It wasn’t the holiday that was making us miserable. It was me. My own mood was to blame.
I recalled with fondness past memories of falling snow, Christmas movies, and hot cocoa; when my husband and I made snow angels like kids in the back yard. A time when I wasn’t governed by my list of demands. When less was more and Christmas was my favorite time of the year.
As I approached the month of December, I decided it was time for a change. No longer will I allow the hustle and bustle to take the jingle out of my jangle. No longer will I take time away from my sanity, my family or Jesus just so I can “do Christmas”.
As a recovering perfectionist, I needed a perspective change.
If I want to recover the spirit of Christmas, I need to do less.
Busyness is the killer of many things, including the Christmas spirit. Though we say we want peace, we often do things that steal the very peace we crave.
For a long time, I believed the lie that peace is the reward for my hard work. But working harder to “nail it” at Christmas became a cycle of stress and fatigue that never actually gave me what I wanted. Striving for the perfect Pinterest decor or baking like Betty Crocker won’t make me more jolly. Rushing from one activity to the next will only leave me frantic. The temptation to do more only runs me ragged, feeds my sickness, and sours my mood.
I don’t want to just do Christmas this year. I want to enjoy it.
The truth is that peace is available right now. Obtaining peace doesn’t require more work. It requires less.
If I want to experience joy, peace and good cheer this year, I need to be present in the moment. This week I resisted the temptation to do and chose instead to just be. And something remarkable happened.
I’m actually enjoying December this year.
When you replace striving with stillness, your heart finds rest and your soul finds peace. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit, not the result of our hard work. It is something that is given and grown within us as we spend time with the Prince of Peace.
When was the last time you stopped doing everything? Or took a break? When was the last time you didn’t care if the lights got strung or the cookies were done? As you prepare for Christmas, are you spending time with the One you are celebrating?
If I want to recover the spirit of Christmas, I need to know why.
Have you ever asked yourself why you bake dozens of cookies for the holiday party? Or why you say yes to every request? Why you send Christmas cards? Or shop til you drop? With all the distraction, it’s easy to forget why I’m doing all of this in the first place.
Take a look at your list and check it twice. How many of your activities are motivated by guilt or the feeling that you should do them? As Disney would say, let. it. go.
Take the pressure off yourself this Christmas. Choose only those activities you enjoy, are meaningful to your family, or in line with your values. For us, keeping Christ at the center of Christmas is what makes everything else we do meaningful.
If I want to recover the spirit of Christmas, I need to give more.
Doing less creates a margin to give and love more. When a real need arises, you’ll be available to visit that friend, help your neighbor, or give to that family in need.
Jesus didn’t come to earth so we could have prettier homes, bigger bellies, or more stuff. Jesus came for people. He came to save the lost, heal the sick, free us from sin and give hope to the world.
Spend time sharing the hope you have and give joy to the world this season!
Renew Your Christmas Spirit
In the 1800’s, America recovered her spirit of Christmas. “What had become a drunken, carnival-like celebration was reinvented into a family-centered holiday of peace and nostalgia. The American people looked to the Church to see how the season should be celebrated. Wanting to be sensitive to the emotional needs of children, they built their own traditions that included card making, gift giving, and tree decorating”.¹
If our nation can recover its spirit of Christmas and traditional values, you can too! If you want to enjoy Christmas this year, focus on being instead of doing. Keep Christ at the center of Christmas. Replace your striving with stillness. Let go of all the mental worries and distractions. Give more than you receive this year.
How you spend this season is completely up to you. Will you make it restful or stressful? Enjoyable or exhausting? May this Christmas be one that is truly merry and bright!