Taking Back Christmas for Faith and Family
by Kathy Howard
I had a tendency to over-do Christmas. It began when I was just a young wife. I filled our home with yummy goodies, bright decorations, a gorgeous tree and a plethora of gifts all done up in coordinated wrappings. I hosted cookie exchanges, neighborhood coffees and White Elephant gift swaps. And don’t forget the Christmas cards, church services and holiday houseguests.
Before the “Black Friday Meltdown” of 2013 nothing got in my way of making Christmas big and bright. Even the year I came down with the flu the day before the neighborhood coffee, I rescheduled it for the following week.
For years I managed to do all this and more. But it seemed the more I did, the more I did by myself. Since my family didn’t share the same “Christmas spirit,” I spent more time working alone and less time with my family. Eventually, even my “Christmas spirit” began to wear thin and the busyness of the season finally took its toll.
Two years ago, something happened that caused me to seriously evaluate the way I “do Christmas.” It was Thanksgiving weekend. Our grown children and their families filled the house. I had cooked and cleaned, then cooked and cleaned some more. They all pitched in, but there were also chunks of time when the family talked together or played games while I worked in the kitchen. I loved having all my family here, but the thought of doing it all again in a few weeks overwhelmed me. I was exhausted and discouraged.
I woke on Friday morning with a feeling I had never experienced before—I was dreading Christmas. I just saw more work for me while my family played. Bitterness began to creep in. Why didn’t they help me more? Didn’t they care that I was doing all this work for them?
Then God gently showed me the problem was not with them, but with me. Not only was I playing the martyr, but I had also imposed my own expectations for the season on the entire family. Something had to change.
Later that day, I called for an impromptu family meeting. I confessed I was tired and needed to make some changes to our regular Christmas routine. I told them I wanted to cut down on the work and make room for me to spend more time with them.
Since food preparation and cleanup demands the biggest amount of time and energy while they’re visiting, I asked how they’d feel about soup for Christmas dinner. To my surprise—and relief—every one of them said soup would be great. This was a first big step in the right direction!
Encouraged by their answer, I pressed a bit more. “So, how do you feel about the tree?” I had crossed a line with that one. The tree was a must. But I did make progress. That Christmas we had soup instead of a huge, elaborate meal. I enjoyed the day and my family so much more.
That bit of success prompted me to take things even further. I began to purposefully evaluate all my Christmas activities in order to redeem the season for faith and family.
You may be feeling overwhelmed or stressed about Christmas. Maybe the busyness of the season leaves you exhausted with no time for the Savior or the people in your life that matter most. If so, it’s time to act. The following three steps can help you take back Christmas.
1. Ask – Ask yourself and your family what activities and family traditions are a must and which ones aren’t that important. You can do this in person, on the phone, or by email. Just do it. You may be surprised at their answers.
2. Evaluate – Think about all the various ways you spend your time during the holiday season—in fact, make a list. Write down everything you can think of on a piece of paper or type it into a notes app—everything from shopping to baking and decorating to viewing Christmas lights and attending parties.
Now thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the items on your list. Here are a few questions to ask:
- Which activities consume the most of your time and resources?
- Which activities do you dread? Are these activities necessary?
- Does the item help you or your family worship our Savior?
- Does it put people over things?
- Does it focus on spiritual things instead of physical things?
- Does it further things that last or things that are temporary?
3. Eliminate – After you’ve asked and evaluated, follow through and actually eliminate some activities and cut back on others. I’m not saying we should cut out every fun activity if it doesn’t meet the criteria above. But we can find a balance that leaves plenty of room for faith and family during the Christmas season.
If you dread hanging lights on the house then don’t do it! Hang a wreath on the door and call it “done.” Don’t want to make homemade cookies for the cookie exchange? Then don’t go, or buy six dozen cookies from a local bakery.
Even changing the way you do some activities can help. For instance, for years I was a “card snob.” I thought unless I addressed the envelopes by hand the cards were somehow “inferior.” But over the last few years, I’ve reclaimed time—and freedom—by printing my address labels. And this year, I’m not sending cards at all!
Look at it this way, even buying a prepared piecrust or cookie dough in a tub redeems time you can use to play games with the family or read the story of the first Christmas in a recliner by the fireplace.
Cut back on the busyness of the season and redeem that time for your family, for time with Jesus. Take back Christmas for faith and family.
Kathy Howard is the author of “Unshakeable Faith” and “Embraced by Holiness.” Find out more at www.kathyhoward.org
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