It’s that time of year again… the carolers are singing, the lights on the tree twinkling, and although we can take or leave the sleigh, many of us end up dashing through the snow.
The Christmas season is here, and if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get swept up into the holiday events and gift giving, overwhelmed by the pressures of our materialistic, Santa-loving culture. To stay sane this time around, here are some bits of wisdom I’m finding to be even better than my family’s stocking-stuffers I’ll soon be wrapping.
Only Shop With A Plan
With all the sales signs beckoning us into the stores these days, if I’m not careful, I end up in the physical (or virtual) mall wandering aimlessly. Maybe you have more restraint, but without a shopping plan, all the intention in the world of searching for the perfect Christmas presents isn’t enough for me. My mind quickly turns toward thinking of myself instead. I don’t know about my dear-ole-dad, but I’d love a purse like that! In order to minimize my accessory-envy and effectively use my limited time in shops or online to get good gifts, my rule is to know specifics of what I’m looking for beforehand. That way, I don’t get lost in a sea of stocked shelves and my favorite father receives a present that he can feel comfortable carrying around.
Choose experiences over more stuff
While buying wrappable gifts can definitely be fun, I’m probably not the only one sick of continuously accumulating more stuff. If we’re honest, the pursuit of the perfect possessions is a problem in our culture, and proves to be empty and unfulfilling most of the time. So, choosing to be creative and give experiences instead is a great alternative. Coffee dates, trips to a museum, concert tickets, free babysitting, or a day at the spa, all communicate your care without crowding the garage. The bonus, both the gift-giver and receiver have an excuse to spend intentional time together and are reminded how much more our relationships with one another matter than the material things.
Say no to good things so you can say yes to better ones
Christmas brings with it a lot of opportunities to serve and celebrate with those we love, but sometimes that can feel more like pressure than a party. Make sure you give yourself breathing room when you need it by practicing saying no. Just because you turn an event invite down to make margin in your schedule, doesn’t mean you’re the grinch. When you replace baking holiday goodies with buying some so you can rest when you need to, you don’t automatically receive coal on Christmas morning. Give yourself some grace and say yes to the opportunities that bring you the most joy this season.
Don’t look to Hallmark movies for the real reason to celebrate
I will happily admit that I watch way too many made-for-TV movies this time of year. They are cheesy in all the right ways, with a formula that, as a writer, I find both incredibly predictable and somehow also super endearing. However, the more I watch, the more disappointing it is to me that these movies include so much talk about “Christmas magic” and “miracles” without ever mentioning the true source. People falling in love or families reuniting, small town stores and inns being saved from bankruptcy, and problems at the North Pole being solved through a child’s belief. These are all good reasons to celebrate, but they all pale in comparison to the real reason for the season—God coming to earth in the form of a baby; Christ sent to save us. As I watch familiar Christmas movies this year, I hope to also look out for ways to continue reminding myself of the best story. Advent devotionals, church sermons, and reading the Gospels are a few of my suggestions.
Welcome the wonder
I’m aware that the Christmas story can sound cliche. After all, we hear it every year. The sparkle of snow tends to fade after a while and with it, the wonder of the world can too. But the fact that Jesus sacrificed everything to be with us is the craziest, most wonderful news ever. It’s worth celebrating, not only every year but every day. We should be doing whatever we can to welcome the wonder of this into our lives and pass it on to others. So, this year, do something that awakens your soul a bit. Watch a toddler open presents and play for hours with the boxes they came in. Go on a drive to see the lights that aren’t in your neighbourhood normally. Learn about a foreign tradition and incorporate it into your plans. Be generous in an extravagant way or go to church with a new believer and see the hope of the gospel through their eyes. Whatever you do, don’t miss the beauty of this season; the wonderland that we get to walk in.
Have a very merry, Christ-centered Christmas full of peace, hope, love, joy, and plenty of sanity.