Three Ways to a More Meaningful Christmas
by Cindi McMenamin
Is it your goal to merely survive the holidays? Get it done, plow through your to-do list and then give a big sigh of relief on January 2 when it’s all over?
I was once that way. For years. Then I realized I was missing something very important. Special memories passed without my embracing them. Loved ones came and went, and I barely noticed. Soon the Christmas season was over, and I was tired but unfulfilled. I knew something had to be done differently.
Now that I’m over 50, I’d like to think of myself as a woman who doesn’t just survive the holidays, but rather a woman who thrives during the most hectic time of the year.
Yes, there are extra expenses, extra responsibilities and extra amounts of stress this time of year. But there can also be extra expectations that can leave you a drama-filled, rather than a spirit-filled, person. Last year, I decided I wanted to be one who truly enjoys this time of year, so I started focusing on a few things that matter. These three actions and perspectives helped me experience a stress-free, drama-free holiday season.
1. Put God First
You’ll be a person who is able to accomplish more if you know where your priorities are.
When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, He replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Since Christmas is when we celebrate His birth, what better gift to give Him than obedience? And what better way to show Him we are obeying His command to love Him first by giving Him the first of our day, through our time? I can honestly say that if I don’t spend quiet time with God every day (preferably in the morning), I’m a mess. My family will attest to that, too! That quiet time consists of at least 20 minutes in prayer and in God’s Word, letting His perspective and principles guide my life. But there are days when that quiet time consists of only a few minutes of quieting my heart before God and asking for His strength to get me through the day.
As we put God first in our day, we are being reminded that His approval, His love and His expectations are more important than anyone else’s. And at this time of year when we can become run down and therefore ultra sensitive, hormonal or just plain cranky, we can tend to place unrealistic expectations on others and be hurt if they’re not appreciating us, supporting us or showing love toward us. When you are secure in your relationship with God and convinced that He loves you and that’s enough, you can face whatever comes your way.
2. Prioritize Your Loved Ones
You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t please all the people all the time,” right? We have to remember this one at this time of year because there are so many demands on our time. Often those we live with and love the most get the least of us when we are trying to please everyone. By asking yourself, “What does my family need most from me today?” and then accomplishing that first on your to-do list, you won’t make the mistake of being a people pleaser and a friends and family failure. Yes, you may be expected to bring cookies to your child’s classroom, but if it happens on the day your child is sick or your husband has a last-minute need that he forgot to communicate to you, or your grandmother is rushed to the hospital, you will have to make a choice to keep yourself sane. You just may have to let some people down at this time of year in order to keep first things first.
Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The ones you live with, eat meals with and sleep next to are your “neighbors” more than anyone else. You can prioritize them—while still reaching out to others at this time of year—by making sure their needs are met first and then inviting them along with you to help meet the needs of others. That will keep you balanced, but not at risk of neglecting those closest to you.
3. Pursue Moments that Lead to Memories
There’s nothing worse than a Christmas that is self-absorbed. If it’s all about what we want, or what our children or grandchildren want, or what someone else wants, we can lose focus of what it truly means to give as God gave of His Son, and Christ gave of Himself.
As you look around you, it’s not difficult to notice so many in need—physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. What are the moments that lead to stories you will tell at the dinner table at night? Stopping to talk to a homeless person and handing them a bag of groceries? Taking your children or grandchildren to a convalescent home and singing carols, or just going door-to-door to visit the elderly and handing them each a candy cane? Taking a meal to a family at church? Going caroling and wishing well those who open the door and smile at you?
The holidays that have meant the most to me and my family are the ones in which we got outside of ourselves and touched another life…not necessarily because it made us feel good, but because it touched someone else’s life and showed our God that we understood a glimpse of what He sacrificed when He sent His Son to earth—and then to a cross—for us.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker, certified writing coach, and author of 16 books including When Women Walk Alone, (more than 140,000 copies sold), Drama Free, which helps women put Christ in the spotlight instead of themselves, and her newest release, 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband, which will help others see Christ in your life and marriage. For more on her ministry, coaching, and free resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
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