We are on the cusp of entering the annual holiday season with Thanksgiving & Christmas just around the corner. While this season is filled with festivities, fun and frolicking, it can also be frenzied and full of fatigue (wasn’t that FUN?!??). I want to be more intentional with this holiday season. In many previous years, I’ve felt driven and drained by all of the demands that seem to accompany these weeks so if I’m not careful, I just kind of mentally and emotionally switch off and go into “automatic mode”: get ready, show up, socialize, leave, repeat. While the “automatic mode” can be good, it’s not always the better choice and more often, it’s not the best.
So here are a few thoughts about making this holiday season the best:
be on purpose – make attentive decisions about what you agree to attend: some invitations are a command performance & some are optional, don’t try to do everything
pay attention to time – it seems to me that time can totally evaporate in the holidays, so I want to be careful and selective with my time during these busy weeks
homemade, store bought or hybrid – many of the season’s festivities require us to bring something tasty, so let’s try to plan ahead to be ready
breath – with all of the hustle, bustle, excitement and buzz, it helps me to pause, be still and exhale
During Christmas, it seems like we are frequently aware of the whole gift thing & sometimes that can be kind of tricky. Here are some ideas for gifts that could be really useful:
encouragement: Christmas is a great time to put into words (even on a card) how important someone is to you, to let someone know how wonderful they are or what you admire / respect about them
hugs: some people really appreciate a genuine hug during Christmas without getting sketchy 🙂
time: I took one of my kids skiing yesterday & we totally enjoyed lots of time together, without phones, email, FB, etc – just being together
extra effort: doing something nice for someone (bring them a cup of coffee, offer to clean their garage, run errands, etc) can be super meaningful – even creating coupons for work can be a nice gift
gift: gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful
The ideas listed above are from Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages book – a super helpful way to express love in ways that are meaningful to the person receiving the gift & not just the person giving the gift 🙂
My kids have been working on their Christmas wish lists & I asked one of them yesterday if world peace was on his list – he chuckled 🙂
When I was growing up, I always wondered about the whole thing of Santa coming down the chimney & how he stayed so clean coming down so many dirty chimneys. Maybe he wore a haz-mat suit for the chimney dives 🙂
But when I’ve been thinking about what might be on God’s wish list, if God has such a thing. Perhaps God would like the inside of our lives to be clean, of course with God’s help. It seems to me that particularly during this season, we often dress up, fix our hair to be pretty & look good on the outside, but let’s not forget to let God help us to clean & fix up the inside of our lives as well. Cleaning out bitterness, strife, unforgiveness, animosity, impatience, . . . . cleaning out some junk in our hearts so that Jesus has room & space to maneuver in our lives without alot of clutter or interference 🙂
Since we’re in the middle of the Christmas season, my kids have organized, refined, amended & advertised their wish lists version 4.5. Here’s an interesting twist: what if Santa had a wish list? What would Santa’s wish list look like? Perhaps Santa would like a chia pet or a vegamatic chopper ,)
More likely, Santa probably wants his reindeer & elves to work together without strife & division. If you think about it, both the reindeer & elves have some hefty responsibilities & the last thing Santa would want to deal with would be conflict among the elves or dissension with the reindeer. Perhaps our Heavenly Father has the same thing on His wish list this Christmas – maybe our Heavenly Father would be super pleased if the strife & conflict with His children was reduced or even eliminated. Let’s you & me make this goal (harmony with each other) one of our priorities so God can check this one off of His wish list – peace on earth & good will among men 🙂
During this Christmas season, I’ve been really thinking about Jesus being a newborn & it’s totally rocking my world. I’ve been thinking about Mary having labor in a room where the sheep, goats, cattle, etc were kept. I’ve been thinking about what it was like for her to go through labor for her first time, not at home and maybe not in a very comfortable place. I’ve been thinking about Jesus being a newborn – what a TOTALLY CRAZY thought. The Son of God, present at the creation of the world, prophesied to Adam & Eve, the Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Everlasting Father (Is 9:6) and eagerly anticipated for thousands of years being a newborn baby.
Having had three newborn babies (I have three kids) and getting to work first hand with babies with Saving Moses, I’m blown away to think about the second person of the Trinity being a newborn baby – it takes my breath away to think of Jesus as a newborn 🙂
It seems to me that in almost every Christmas season, there comes a time when all of the pressures, activities, demands and general busy-ness shifts into the frenzied and frantic zone and the chaos threatens to swallow me into a abyss of cluttered insanity (sorry for all of the adjectives). In the midst of all of this, I find my heart getting really still and quiet, seeking to create some serenity, calm and peace. Even now, I have a few unexpected moments of quiet and while I’m writing this, I find myself letting go of some of the season’s stress and receiving some much needed divine peace.
So my friend, please be sure that with all of this season’s demands and expectations, don’t neglect to take those essential moments to be still and celebrate our Prince of Peace 🙂
Confession time: I don’t like to wrap presents & so for many preceding years, this has been a really bad point of procrastination – so bad that I’ve had melt downs on Christmas Eve looking at all the wrapping I needed to do while thinking about all the meal prep I needed to do for our Christmas meal. No one’s fault but mine. This year, I’m trying something different – I’m trying to wrap 4-5 present over each weekend, attempting to prepare for Christmas better than my recent disasters. So far, it seems to be working.
I’ve also been thinking about preparing for Jesus’ birth this season with Is 40:4 where he talks about bringing the valleys up to meet the road level. I’ve been thinking about this in relation to any depressed areas in my life – low spots in my thinking, actions & conversations. While I’m not advocating denial or burying my head in the sand, there are certainly areas in my life that are lower than what God says in the Bible (low thinking, substandard conversations & actions, etc). So I feel challenged to let the Bible confront & help me to shore up those low areas as I prepare for Jesus’ birth during this season 🙂
We are coming to the close of the Christmas season & it seems to me that we all do Christmas in our own unique ways – which is cause to celebrate! Thankfully, I changed a few of my normal habits so that this year has less stress than preceding years (normally, I procrastinate package wrapping because this is the one task I totally HATE, for various reasons). Anyways, this year we had a wrapping party, so that atrocity has been overcome ,)
I’m now putting my brain into the cooking mode, since today & tomorrow will be filled w food prep. Here are some things that we’ll be cooking (my daughter is helping me):
breakfast: 2 savory bread puddings (spinach / artichoke and ham, cheese & sun dried tomatoes) – I think these hold great promise ,)
meats: turkey & ham
veggies: sweet potato casserole ala’ Isabell & green beans
salads: green salad & my mom’s infamous black cherry jello
chorizo stuffing (my husband’s favorite)
desserts: pecan pie & peach cobbler
So what do you cook & how do you celebrate Christmas???
We are having lots of people over, but the whole point of all of this cooking, preparation, celebration, et. al, is 100% due to Jesus’ birth – indeed, the most noble of all events to celebrate. Merry Christmas!!
My husband & I were discussing our family’s schedule for the next 2 weeks & simply put, its a BUSY season. When I looked up the word busy in the thesaurus, here are some of the words that I found & they seem fairly accurate: occupied, active, engaged, unavailable, full. My challenge is that when I get “busy”, I tend to become less present in my relationships & it seems like I can be very fragmented – little pieces of me spread everywhere.
But here’s my thinking about this season & a possible solution to the frenzy potential: If I can make myself “present” to God (offer myself to Him as a gift / sacrifice), then I trust that He will structure my time, the things I need to get done & the energy to do His work. It has been my experience that when I remain present with God throughout the various activities & demands in my life, I have more peace, I’m more productive & my relationships are less shakey. I like the practice of integrating God throughout each day, activity, conversation & chore – seems like I’m less “busy” when I do this 🙂
Looking forward to something is lots of fun! I like to look forward to lots of things: picking up my kids from school, having a family meal together, snowboarding, a good cup of coffee, deep conversations, hanging out with friends, getting to express Jesus’ extravagant & opulent love, dreaming about Jesus, making a pecan pie, reading a good book, . . . . We all have things that we look forward to – maybe your list is similar to my list 🙂
Here’s something I think that God looks forward to: I think He waits with huge & eager anticipation for when we discover Jesus. The reason I think this is because of the whole shepherd experience in announcing Jesus’ birth. If you read through this in Luke 2:8-17, you can see some pretty cool things. First of all, the shepherds were hanging w their sheep in the field at night, generally a dark & quiet time, when they could have all been sleeping. Then there are a couple of “suddenly”s – an angel appearing to the shepherds with glory all around the angel & then heavenly hosts breaking out in praise. These activities certainly interrupted the normal night “quiet & still” – no silent night with these angels! They stirred up the shepherds so much that we read that the shepherds hurried to find out what the angels were all wound up about – why they had busted into their normal routine to make such a grandiose & noisy announcement.
I think God was TOTALLY pumped to interrupt the shepherd’s routine, based on the way the angels were behaving!! Furthermore because God’s character is consistent every day, I think God gets UBER EXCITED to introduce us to Jesus – maybe not even just for the first time. In this season, I’d encourage you to get some still & quiet to give God the opportunity to break into your life – to get you stirred up about Jesus being part of your life & not just a religious introduction or a traditional song about one of holiday’s of the year. Anticipation: God looks forward to getting to be with you 🙂
Christmas can sometimes be an expensive holiday, depending on how you celebrate it. Given the economy this year, along with the employment situation for many of my friends, I thought I’d suggest a gift that doesn’t require money but is thoroughly invaluable to not only the receiver but also to you the person giving the gift. Interested to know what you can give that’s expensive but doesn’t cost money?
See, here’s the deal: we all have people in our lives that need our forgiveness. Whether its the jerk that cut you off when you’re driving or the very hurtful remark someone said to you at work. Or maybe you’ve been hurt by something your mate said to or about you without thinking of the sting it has left in you. Maybe someone did something to you in your childhood that still affects you to this day. The truth is, no one has to look hard for opportunities to forgive – our life is full of such opportunitites every day.
So this Christmas, let’s give others the gift of forgiveness – to let go.
Forgiveness is given when we don’t remind the person of their shortcoming.
Forgiveness is given when we speak kind words without sarcasm (or do our best to be pleasant)
Forgiveness is given when we want what is in the offenders best interest (and not the getting even approach)
Forgiveness is given when we don’t have to always make the offender know that we’re forgiving them
I think that many of us don’t do the forgiveness because it takes alot of work & its much less work to not forgive, especially at the beginning of an offense. But i’ve found that the longer i hold onto an offense, the harder it is to let it go & the more drained i become from maintaining the offense.
So be generous this season without spending alot of money 🙂
Give the gift of forgiveness & go into the new year with greater freedom and liteness of being 🙂
Its been way too long since my last blog! Recently, we were in the mountains w the fam doing some skiing & the place where we were staying didn’t have internet access – no it wasn’t a log cabin w no running water. Its good to be back!! We’ve spent the last 2 weeks w lots of fam activities:
took the kids skiing a few times – they can now all handle easy blue runs & here are their skiing profiles (reflects their personalities): Isabell – Reece says she cruises along; David – stays close to me & trying his skis out on jumps (I lead because its easier to go fast when you snowboard); Benji – just fast & more fast.
cooking Christmas turkey – it was ok
having my friend Laura & her fam stay w us & doing some skiing together
I read “Into Thin Air” – true story about the very deadly 1996 Mt Everest expedition w various teams
Of course I’ve been thinking about some things w God & while I don’t have answers to many questions, I have a sense of His presence w me. So, I hope your holiday season has left you well basted & ready to move into 2009. May this year be filled w God’s presence in your life more than 2008, in whatever way He choses & may we rest at peace in His choices for us.
Just my opinion here, but I don’t think you can separate genuine Christmas from worship – they’re more than mutually compatible. I think they’re interdependant. If you give it much thought, it seems pretty impossible to separate the two when you consider that God took on human flesh, humbled Himself to be born into a dark & sinful world, spending His 1st night in a feeding trough for an animal, to an unwed mother. Add to the mix that some wisemen who studied the stars & who were considered to be the philosophers of their day show up with some really nice gifts & fall on their knees to worship this baby, along w some smelly shepherds who had an angelic enounter & were EXTREMELY excited.
Here are some reasons to worship:
God came to earth to live in human skin
an angelic announcement got the shepherds all stirred up!
God warned Joseph about Herod trying to kill baby boys & Joseph protected Jesus by moving to Egypt
Jesus didn’t “lay low” during His human experience – He was completely & thoroughly engaged w humanity
Jesus loves us as much today as He did the day He died on the cross
What are some other reasons that cause you to worship Jesus?
Gifts are a really big deal at Christmas – especially for people who feel love by receiving gifts (you can actually feel MORE love by giving than receiving, but that’s a different blog). Anyways, here’s an interesting thought – what are the various “gifts” people gave to Jesus? Here’s an example: Simon gave Jesus a gift of service by carrying His cross to Golgotha for Jesus. What are some other gifts people gave / brought to Jesus?
I’m thinking of doing a blog series leading up to Christmas thinking & conversing about its different facets (worship, giving, preparation, new life, . . . . . ). What do you think? I like the idea, but would be even more interested to do it, if you would consider adding to the dialogue over the next week or so.
My plan is to blog pretty much each weekday & we could converse about a facet for a few days or so. Let’s do it, ok? ;0
Its really good to experience Christmas w kids & I’m discovering this moreso w each year. I love their questions:
why do people celebrate Christmas if they don’t believe in Jesus? – David
who has the last birthday of the year in our family? Answer by Isabell: Jesus
are we having birthday cake for Jesus’ birthday? – Benji
what made the men from the East who came to give Jesus presents, “wisemen”? – David
what were the shepherds doing in the field at night when the angels came to visit? Were they staying up late when this happened? – David
what are we doing for families that don’t have enough money for Christmas? – Isabell
They’ve asked me LOTS more, but these are just a few off the top of my head. Kids can really distill things to the most important points – cutting through the fluff. I love it!
Isabell is really excited because she’s in our church’s kid’s Christmas program this weekend as an actor, singer, dancer & cheerleader. She’s SO EXCITED!!!!! Benji has his Jr Kindergarten program on Wed – he’s Gabriel. I think he makes a very fitting Gabriel – announcing w great joy, enthusiasm & volume the birth of Jesus. I think David kind of prefers the cerebral approach to the season. Whatever the case, they’re all fabulously unique & I am more than in awe of them & their observations.