“Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright.”
A loud voice broke the quiet; now my son was tattling on his sister, “Mom, Sarah is taking too much time in the bathroom.” Silent, hardly. Calm? Nope.
“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” For the third time this week, we were late to soccer practice. And my husband Paul’s the coach. This routine is far from restful.
“O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…” (Sigh) So much to do, so little time – removed from tranquil.
Are these holiday jingles descriptions of your family’s Christmas season?
Au contraire! My goodness, during the Christmas rush, our homes are far from anything but silent, calm, restful, still or peaceful. The holiday momentum builds the day after Thanksgiving; the house is noisy, busy, hustling, bustling and brimming over with activity and stress to the point of near exhaustion. We have so much to do before Christmas Day arrives. There are lists to make, baking to prepare, cards to send, shopping to do, gifts to wrap and events to plan.
And then there’s Christmas church services, musicals, plays, concerts, recitals, office parties, family gatherings, Christmas light tours, traditions revisited, memories to make, graves of lost loved ones to visit.
Ever been tempted to run away at Christmas-time? It would be nice take a two-week trip, maybe to a deserted island and just be alone with your family. Guess what: Christmas comes around the same date every year, and it’s wonderful to know, even in the midst of the flurry, we will have another opportunity next year to start over and ask God to help us make Christ the center of Christmas.
But, why wait? Let’s learn how we can intentionally cut the Christmas chaos this year. To make it easy to remember, let’s use the letters in the word PEACE for a five-step acrostic:
P: Pray Ahead
Guess what? Christmas comes on the same date, at the same time every year – December 25. So start praying for your holiday experience when you see the first hint of Christmas decorations in the stores. In July, I browsed Hobby Lobby for items to decorate my patio. I was shocked to see there were things for sale announcing not only the arrival of Halloween, Thanksgiving and oh yes; there it was: Christmas. Yes, in July. Instead of saying “Can you believe Christmas decorations are already for sale?” Say, “I’m so glad I’m reminded to begin praying for our family’s holiday season to be glorifying to the Lord. Let Jesus be celebrated on His birthday.”
Pray for God’s peace to rule before, during and after your holiday. Pray for peace to reside in your heart and mind, so that it will infect and redirect the chaos of those around you.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
“The thief comes to steal, kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
E: Express Your Desire
Okay, after you’ve talked to God about your holiday hope for harmony instead of hectic and hopeless, pick a night for a family meeting and share your thoughts with your loved ones. If they are into making new traditions, suggest something like: “This year we are going to try something new. We are going to simplify Christmas.” Ask each person to write down their favorite traditions, activities and foods associated with the holiday. As you are gathering their lists, mix them up and pass them out to a different person than the one who made the list. Give each person a few minutes to read aloud the list they received. There will be many items on the list that are going to be doubled up. Have another person make a list of the common things people agree that they want to do, favorite foods people want to eat and special traditions people want to keep. This will make simplifying Christmas much easier.
Explain to your loved ones that as they simplify, it will help everyone increase their peace and enjoyment during the holidays.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
A: Accept a Few Invitations
Believe it or not, less is more. So many holiday activities are added in: Christmas parties, cookie decorating in the kid’s classroom, potlucks at work, secret Santa at the hairdresser, Christmas plays, the Nutcracker, the symphony, Manheim Steamroller. Unintentionally, we get ourselves and our families twisted and tangled in the Christmas tinsel of too much activity with the many directions we try to go. Only one thing is important: focus on Jesus.
So how do you choose what to attend and how to spend your precious time? Share Advent with your family each morning at breakfast. I use a daily scripture Advent calendar – to keep focused on Jesus, the reason for the season. When we choose to start the day focusing on Jesus, it is easier to say no when the invitations arrive.
Use your lists to decide what your loved ones’ priorities really are for how you will use your time. What are your family’s favorite baked goods? Ours are baking pumpkin bread, Chex mix, sugar cookies, and making tamales. We plan a day or an evening for the actual baking of baked goods. We schedule several days for making tamales and involve our small groups at church. If your children’s classrooms are hosting Christmas gatherings and you are the room mother, of course, you will be arranging donations from the children in the class for items to gather for sharing. But if one child’s class party falls on the same day as that of another child or event, involve your husband, grandma or even a favorite aunt in attending so you don’t feel like you have to be in two places at once.
Say no. That’s right. It’s okay to say, “No we have other plans.” Even if your ‘other plans’ are to stay home with your family and finish frosting sugar cookies for tomorrow’s class party. No guilt, no pressure, just honest self-control and wise time management. Your own children are going to learn a lot from you this year.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
C: Create a Budget
What? A budget? Yes, a budget. Go back to your list of how you and your family plan to celebrate Christmas. Do you have a large immediate family? What about extended family? Figure out how much money you are able to spend on each person and make another list of items so your children can help with the shopping. No money? Pinterest has lots of do-it-yourself crafts for your children to make for their relatives. Now, mark your calendar and plan ahead for a Christmas gift making craft day.
Did you ask your children what they want to receive for Christmas? Okay, good. Now ask them what they want to give away at Christmas. If we don’t teach our children how to share out of our abundance, we will teach and actually reinforce selfishness. It helps to explain to them, “When we get more stuff, we must get rid of old stuff to make room for the new stuff.” It’s the principle of the most unbelieved beatitude in the Bible: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Amazing how that works – can it be true? The giver can be happier than the getter? Oh yes. This really goes against all of our human instincts but is a very important kingdom principle best taught and caught in life situations.
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3
E: Experience Jesus – Invite God’s presence to take over your lists, plans and desires. You have the mind of Christ. Ask Jesus to rule how you focus your time.
A wonderful tradition I created with my own elementary aged children encouraged them daily, during the twenty-four days before Christmas Day. We had a couple of Nativity sets and each morning when the kids were getting ready for school, I would hide the Baby Jesus from each Nativity set. The challenge was that they could not search for the hidden Baby Jesus until they were fully dressed, beds made, breakfast eaten, teeth brushed, backpacks packed, ready to load into the car to be dropped off at school. When they were completely ready to walk out the door, I would say, “Okay let’s look for the Baby Jesus.” And then Sarah would search for the small, plastic Baby Jesus, I would say ‘hotter” or “colder” depending on where she was situated in regard to where I had hidden it, until she discovered the hiding place. Next, Ben would get the chance to do the same thing with the Baby Jesus from the ceramic nativity. Each day, we would switch who would get to search for which one and so on and so forth until Christmas day. What a great motivation and Christ centered way to start the day.
And so now, not only do I hang on to our family memories, I’ve taught my children how to develop their own special traditions for their family Christmas seasons.
“May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16
So you see, cutting Christmas chaos is actually very simple. It takes planning and intention. And of course, lots of prayer. I will be praying for you this holiday season, that you will experience a ‘calm and bright’ holiday and that you can ‘sleep in heavenly peace.’ May God bless your Christmas!
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:3
To find out more about Sheryl Giesbrecht’s blog posts, books, music and free resources, go to FromAshesToBeauty.com.