This post first appeared as a guest post I wrote for Tricia Goyer’s blog last Christmas, but I love the message so much and needed it again this year, so I thought maybe you would enjoy it, too?
We browse Pinterest, home décor blogs, and our favorite magazines for Christmas inspiration. The stores are an uncomfortable jumble of Halloween clearance, Thanksgiving turkeys, and Christmas lights. We hum along to the Christmas songs pumped over grocery store speakers as we walk the aisles and fill our carts with the week’s necessities, long before the Thanksgiving menu has been planned. In the mail come the catalogs, emails with sneak peeks of Christmas sales, and excitement gathers around the latest, greatest, must-have toy of the season.
It’s no wonder we’re weary by the time Christmas comes around. If I could have you over for a cup of coffee and some cookies (store-bought, and you’re welcome for that), I would tell you the urgency the world tells us we need to feel during this season is false. The rush, hustle, bustle, frantic pace and huge events we try to plan and cram into our schedules? I would tell you that those aren’t the memories of Christmas I cherish. And I don’t want my daughter to grow up associating Christmas with craziness. What moments in your past do you associate with the holidays? For me, it’s time spent with people I love. Small traditions, like opening new pajamas on Christmas Eve, or making cinnamon rolls and coffee before exchanging presents. The joy of a rare white Christmas or caroling with friends.
This season, let’s just lay it all down. Let’s step away from the retailer-imposed to do lists, must buy lists, and party-planning must-haves and refocus. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly,” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG). Here are five tips that help me during the holiday weariness that I pray encourage you, too.
- Schedule downtime. Can I tell you a secret? You don’t have to say “yes” to everything. Scheduling downtime is something I learned to do at agenda-packed conferences to help my introverted self survive the weekend. If I don’t plan time to rest, block time on the calendar to do nothing, I fill it up with something. Figure out what is essential, what is truly a “can’t-miss” event, and give yourself freedom to say “no” to one or two other items to add breathing room to your holidays.
- Focus on the reason. When I forget to seek God in my day-to-day, I become stressed-out, worn-out, and anxiety-filled. It’s no different on a Tuesday in June or the week before Christmas. However, when I remember to start my day with God, when I intentionally seek Him and lay all of the burdens of the season at the cross, He lifts the weight.
- Seek joy. Standing in lines, dealing with traffic, mentally preparing for family gatherings, trying to find the “perfect” gift and somehow stay under-budget—it can be a challenge to find joy in the season. But when we look a little harder, a little more intentionally? We spot the random act of kindness in the checkout line beside us as someone lets a mama with a toddler go ahead of them. We take time to sing a few Christmas carols at the top of our lungs as we sit at yet another red light. This year, let’s look for joy and watch as what could become wearisome turns wonderful.
- Plan simply. It’s not about the glitz, the glamor, the shine, or the sparkle. This season? It’s about celebrating a God who came down low to love us in flesh and blood. It’s about surrounding ourselves with joy and laughter, sweet memories of late nights in fuzzy socks and cups of hot chocolate. Praying with friends and serving others. Be inspired by Pinterest, but plan for simplicity.
- Be present. All of the lists, events, obligations, and desires of our hearts to create perfect holiday memories can leave us so busy that we forget to enjoy any of what we’ve just planned. Step back. Take five minutes to simply be present, to put down the camera, and just to soak in the smiles of your family on Christmas morning. To stop looking at the clock and just breathe in the smells and the sights of the season.
This Christmas, I pray that we’ll take time to settle our hearts, refocus on God’s present to the world, and rest as we discover those “unforced rhythms of grace.”