By Kat Cannon
Well…it’s here. The Christmas season officially begins at midnight Thanksgiving night, though some of us have been in the throes of it for weeks already. My mom, for example, finished her Christmas shopping last month. Now you know where my crazy comes from.
I love Christmas more than any other time of year, but the season stresses me out. Mostly because I have a tendency to go way over the top in my decorating, gift-giving, cooking, lighting, music-ing, wearing of sweaters/jewelry/socks. I suppose it’s my nature to lean towards the extreme. So when New Year’s Day rolls around and I survey the debris of Christmas Past, I’m usually exhausted. Not a good way to start the year.
I’m also keenly aware of just how fast life rolls along these days. Maybe it’s because I have teenagers instead of toddlers now. Or maybe we’re all too busy. The demands on all of us certainly aren’t getting lighter – at least not for anyone I know. Or maybe the instant nature of our digital age compresses our brains. Who knows? Whatever the reason, I feel the moments whizzing by, and I want to spend the ones I have with family and friends as wisely as I can.
I want to do things differently this Christmas. I want to keep things simple. And I have at least three good reasons why:
1. Turn my Christmas focus off of myself and on to others. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3) I have to admit that a lot of my over-the-top-ness comes from a desire to show off and get attention for all the pretties and the yummies at my house. Don’t get me wrong – I love making a big ol’ Christmas feast, pulling out all the stops on the menu for special occasions. But I need to check my heart here. Is that fancy dessert about honoring my guests or about giving them a reason to honor me? Perhaps a simpler, less stressful option would be better so I can focus on my friends and family instead of wringing my hands over a new and complicated recipe.
2. Keep my budget under control. Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8) Perhaps this isn’t your issue, but it often is mine. I get caught up in the emotions of special occasions and let things get a little out of control. After all, it’s CHRISTMAS!!! Isn’t it worth it to splurge here…and there…and over there…and on that, too? By deciding now to keep things simple before the hype hits full swing, I’m less likely to get caught up in the swirling vortex of excess in our culture. And it’s not just money I’m budgeting – it’s my time as well. I don’t want to spend every waking second hustling and bustling to get it all done. I want to – need to- budget some time to sit still, pray, linger, listen to my Lord. If I’m not intentional about preparing my heart for Emmanuel, it just won’t happen.
3. Create some space for loving my neighbors well this Christmas. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14) This is a fantastic time of year to love on those who live near me if I actually take the time to do it. Everyone seems to be in a festive mood and probably won’t freak out if I knock on their door, especially if I bring treats. I often don’t, not because I don’t care but because I’m so overwhelmed with all of my plans that I can’t bear the thought of adding one more thing to my list. By simplifying my personal celebration and collecting some easy ideas for connecting with others, the whole thing sounds much more appealing and much less exhausting.
Strip away the excess to make room for the excellent.
I’ve got other reasons for simplifying my holidays this year, too, but those are my big ones. And I know that a simple Christmas is within reach if only I decide it’s important enough to go against my natural flow. Left to my own devices, I’ll be a whirling dervish of tinsel and ribbon again. But with some Spirit-led self-control and a simple plan, this year could be different.
The REAL Women’s ministry wants to help you simplify your Christmas, too. Join us on Friday, December 4 from 5:30 – 9:30 pm at Austin Oaks Church for “Simplify the Holidays” with lots of ideas to reduce Christmas stress and love our neighbors well this season. Tickets are on sale online.