Hey y'all! Are you feeling as overwhelmed with the season as I am?? The past few weeks have been absolutely insane for our family. In between all the normal stuff of life, we've been to birthday parties and Thanksgiving dinners, potluck suppers, and choir performances. On the agenda for this weekend? Dennis' company Christmas party, the city Christmas parade, two birthday parties, and decorating gingerbread houses at the library.
It's easy to lose sight of the meaning of Christmas in all of the hustle and bustle, but thankfully, there are a few things we can do to savor the Christmas season, even with a full calendar. Here are five things that work for our family.
1. Observe Advent.
If you grew up in a non-liturgical church like I did, you may be unfamiliar with Advent, but don't let that scare you off! Advent simply means "to come." In the church, the season of Advent is the four weeks before Christmas—it's a time of holy expectation and preparation for the coming of the Savior. One way we observe Advent in our family is by lighting an Advent wreath at dinner every night. We talk about the candles and Jesus coming to earth, then we say a prayer and eat supper. It's that simple. The whole thing only takes a few minutes, but it's a great way to intentionally turn our hearts toward the light of Christ as a family.
2. Practice Generosity.
In this season of spending and gifting, we take care to remember the poor and the marginalized. My children love looking through the Christmas gift catalog from Compassion International each year. I let them make a list of everything they would like to give, and we talk about how a goat can provide food and income for a family, or how some children don't have enough good food to keep them healthy and strong, or how not everyone has access to clean water. It helps us, as a family, focus on what others need instead of what we want. It's a tangible way for us to teach our children that we give generously because God has been generous with us.
3. Purchase with Purpose.
Another way we make Christmas meaningful is by giving gifts that do good. More and more businesses these days are giving back in ways that matter. Over the past few years, I've really tried to give my dollars to companies that are interested in more than the bottom line. I've intentionally sought out businesses that provide jobs and opportunity to people in need, and I add items to my own wish list from those shops. Seriously y'all, the concept of purposeful purchasing is so important to me that I incorporated it into my own shop, and a portion of every single purchase from the LAJ Shop goes directly to Amazima Ministries. If you, like me, are looking for meaningful gifts that matter, check out my Purchase with Purpose pinboard. With Christmas right around the corner, there's no better time to make your dollars count.
4. Slow Down.
I have a confession to make. We're still in the process of putting up the Christmas tree. I know, I know, we're behind, but slowing down has been an intentional choice this year. If you view the four weeks before Christmas as a season of waiting and preparation, then there's no rush to hang the tinsel before the turkey is out of the oven on Thanksgiving day. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have duped us into thinking that we have to have all our Christmas ducks in a row right after Thanksgiving, but y'all, that's a lie. Your halls don't have to be decked in all their splendor for the whole entire season. It takes time to prepare your heart for Christmas—it's OK to let your home reflect the process too.
Did you know that historically speaking, this cramming of Christmas into the weeks before December 25 is a new thing? Traditionally, Christmas was celebrated for the 12 days after Christmas, not the 25 days before. So this year, don't get in a rush. Slow down. Savor the season. Let it linger. And by all means, feel free to leave your tree up for the entire 12 Days of Christmas. You now have permission not to take it down until January 6. You're welcome.
5. Embrace Wonder.
This one is probably the most important, but it's also the hardest to do when your life is crammed full to the brim with activities and parties and everything else the Christmas season throws at you. The struggle is real. I get it. But y'all, you'll never capture the wonder of Christmas if you can't learn to slow down and chill out. I don't have it all figured out, but I'm trying. I'm carving out a few minutes every day to reflect on the sheer miracle of God becoming flesh. To let myself be amazed by the Living Word.
The God we serve is not one who stood idly by while the world went to hell in a handbasket. No. He left heaven. For you. For me. He came down. He pierced the darkness with his blazing light. He burst into our world and became the lowest of the low to fix the brokenness within us. If that doesn't give you pause, I don't know what will. The miracle of the incarnation is nothing short of remarkable. Extraordinary. Spectacular. Glorious.
Don't let the wonder slip past you. Grab onto it and hold on tight. It is the true meaning of Christmas, and if you want to make your Christmas meaningful, you have to start there.
Until next time, grace and peace.