Steps to a simpler Christmas
by Major Lauren Hodgson
The word Christmas can bring both great joy and a sense of trepidation at the same time.
Why is that? For many people, all the work involved in orchestrating family traditions and celebrations brings a feeling of pressure. Some worry about holiday bills, while others are concerned about surviving Christmas after a recent loss, such as a divorce, death in the family, or layoff from a job. Some are troubled by being childless or single or estranged from family and wonder how they can piece together a memorable celebration.
Every year we declare that this year will be different. We will simplify and bring greater meaning to how we celebrate, but then get swept up in the minutia of holiday preparations. Once the holiday ball gets rolling, it is hard to stop it. Then, when all is said and done and the season is over, we are exhausted, and disappointment sets in because Christmas was once again the blur of shopping, wrapping, events, and parties, along with some crushed expectations. We are overwrought with the thought of They gave us a gift, so we need to give them one. If we don’t go to this party, what will others think? It’s a family tradition…we’ve always done it that way. With those thoughts as guiding principles, joy can drain from our lives. So, consider being proactive. Think about committing yourself and others to make this holy season richer in meaning and purpose.
The freedom of simplicity
You may be saying, “Yep, this year it will be different!” Look at the “why” before considering the “how.” The discipline of simplicity is an expression of your life pointing toward one goal over all else. Jesus said, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), but we live in a world of duplicity. Our time and attention are pulled in a million directions, exacerbated during the Christmas season.
So, does this mean we become killjoys with every outward expression of Christmas? Not at all! We must continually ask ourselves if how we celebrate Christmas expresses why Christ came to bring life, love, and purpose.
Where to begin
Start with a few simple but meaningful steps that speak to the true spirit of Christmas. What matters most to you and what are you committing to? How do you want to uniquely celebrate in a way that is life–giving instead of life–draining? As you read the suggestions, one or two may truly resonate with you. Then, consider the cost and discuss it with those closest to you as this might also affect them. Ask God to give you wisdom as you take steps to a simpler Christmas.
It all starts with you and a rededication to spiritual growth. Understand who you are in Christ, and rededicate yourself to him as your priority in your life. It will give you a new lens to see everything else you do.
Consider Mary’s declaration at Gabriel’s announcement that she would become the mother of the Savior of the world, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants…” (Luke 1:38, TLB). Then lay before him all the Christmas opportunities and see where he takes you.
Examine your holiday activities in the light of your deepest values. Your deepest value is God and time with him. How are you going to do that during Advent? What is life–giving to my family and me that brings us closer to God? How am I connecting with my family of faith and celebrating with them?
Remember those people who truly need your gifts and perhaps think about expressing your love in more direct ways than the giving of gifts.
Be a peacemaker within your circle of family and friends. Holidays can be triggers of misunderstanding and woundedness. The ministry of presence is desperately needed today. Don’t underestimate the gift of listening. “People don’t want to be fixed; they just want to be heard” (Stephen Macchia).
Each of these steps to a simpler Christmas are rich with meaning and you may want to consider how God wants you to move forward. SLD has created a resource that combines these steps with God’s Word to help you maneuver from chaos to calm this Advent season. A copy of “Steps to a Simpler Christmas” takes you through 25 days of December in God’s Word to simplify your celebration of this holy season. Download your copy today at sld.saconnects.org
Read more from the latest issue of SAconnects.