BY TONI KEMPER: EVERY SINGLE year I commit to being more prepared than the last, and EVERY SINGLE year the weeks leading up to Christmas seem like a blur of frenzied shopping, school programs, parties, meals and various church events. Last year (AFTER Christmas), I sat down and reflected on different ways I could slow down and enter more fully into the true meaning of Christmas. Here are just a few ideas, hopefully, one or two will resonate with you or spark vision for what works for you, your family and/or your church.
Add elements of Advent to your Christmas celebration.
Advent is Latin for “coming” and “waiting.” It lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. At that time, the new Christian year begins with the 12-day celebration of Christmastide, which lasts from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6. (Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year.) You may enjoy this teaching on Advent from Ann Voskamp video.
This season creates an atmosphere in our homes and churches to pause, prepare, and keep vigil. Counter to the frenzied preparations of gifts and meals and programs, Advent invites us to slow down, reflect, meditate and prepare for the coming of Jesus.This year my family and I spent an afternoon preparing our Advent wreath, and then we light the candles in prayer every Sunday as we prepare for “Jesus’ Birthday.” We also read nightly before bed from our Advent Storybook (link here to one we have used for years). Not only does it explain Advent in a way that a child can understand it also forces me as a parent to slow down and curl up with my children.
Plan the activities you really want to do.
Choose one or two activities that each family member especially enjoys and put them on your calendar, because that’s the only way to make sure they happen. Involve each member of the family and make sure each has a voice in scheduling their favorite activity. One may love attending Handel Messiah sing-along, another baking cookies together, and another watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” together.
Prayer and meditation.
Pray for God’s peace during your holiday. Take time to “just be.” Reflect and meditate on the true meaning of the season and you can redirect the chaos around you. I like to wake up before the rest of the house, turn on the Christmas tree lights; and while the coffee is brewing, spend my morning with God.
Sing Christmas carols.
Music affects the brain in many positive ways. It can make you smarter, happier and more productive. So as you go about your daily tasks of laundry and dishes or as you wrap gifts and trim the tree, turn up your speaker and savor the sounds of the season. Want to really improve your mood? Sing Christmas songs along with the radio, solo or in a group of friends.
Make a gratitude list.
Gift giving at Christmas time can be a double-edged sword. There is often too much pressure placed on buying the perfect gift for each one on your list, and there can often be the disappointment if you don’t receive the gift you wanted or no gift at all. Focusing on all the blessings we enjoy helps alleviate expectations about how the Christmas season “should” go.
Taking time each day to make a list of what we’re grateful for helps us slow down and contemplate on how much we have and how little we truly need. It also gives us time to meditate on the gift of God’s Son and the marvelous way His coming to earth changed our lives forever.
Welcoming the other.
Focus on the needs of others less fortunate, and find ways you and your family can help or support them. Find someone who needs a tangible expression of God’s love–like a single mom, an elderly neighbor, or someone fighting cancer or another disease. Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful outreach ministry and the Salvation Army has various ways you can help others during the Christmas season. You can also look for those in your immediate circle or neighborhood where you can make an impact and even develop an ongoing friendship. There may even be an opportunity to invite them to your church for a worship service or into your home for a meal, which is incredibly meaningful for those who are alone or isolated.
Let go of expectations of perfection.
Let the season be what it is without expectations for perfection. To create the kind of holiday season you envision for your family, some things simply will have to go. That may mean you can’t budget for those big-ticketed items you planned, the cookies did not turn out anything like the Pinterest picture, and your house looks like your kids decorated. We are often so disappointed when things don’t go “as planned” during the holidays, so plan loosely. Let go and enjoy.
About Toni Kemper: A mother to three and marketer by trade, Toni joined the CCS team in 2016 as the Communications Coordinator and jumped right in learning the ins and outs of church music and copyrights. She is passionate about writing and enjoys contributing to the CopyrightCoach. Toni is also passionate about education which fits right in with CCS’s mission to educate the church community on copyrights, as well as why you will find her volunteering in the Children’s Ministry department of her church.
About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration, and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.