I am sure I’m not the only person who has experienced a Christmas time or two where the spirit of the season seems to get choked out by the commercialism, or busyness, or stress that surround a holiday that is intended to focus on the greatest gift of all: the coming of a Savior. In years past, I have shamefully recognized a dullness of heart due to the familiarity and distractions that are sometimes intentionally designed to make the holiday about something other than what it is intended. The past couple of years, though, I have taken a little more intentionality towards the holiday and it has made all the difference. While my heart isn’t always perfectly postured, I have recognized a certain level of restoration in my spirit during this time of year. And I wanted to share some of the things that have helped me in case you might be needing the same thing too.
SET THE MOOD WITH CHRISTMAS MUSIC THAT FITS YOUR TASTE
There are those special souls that have a unique love for Christmas music. You know the kind: they have an itch to start those festive tunes by mid-July because they love it so much. But if you are not one of those people and you either get burnt out on Christmas music fast, or you’re just not a fan of the traditional choruses, then my biggest tried & true suggestion is finding some Christmas music that you actually like. If Mariah Carey’s voice drives you mad like me, then simply don’t listen to it. I promise you can find songs that stir up some Christmas spirit without making your ears bleed. Look up if some of your favorite artists have any Christmas albums or covers and make a playlist of them. I find that I get much more excited to listen to Christmas music over and over when I like the style of the songs I’m listening to. Here are some of my top recommendations:
- Hillsong’s The Peace Project & We Have a Savior albums (some classic, and some original Christmas songs that really focus my heart on the reason for the season)
- Future of Forestry’s Advent Christmas EPs
- The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album
- Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights”
- Jimmy Eat World’s “Last Christmas” cover
- Andrew Belle’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” cover
- And out of pure nostalgia, N*Sync’s Home for Christmas album
Want to listen along to my whole ‘Tis the Season playlist? You can check it out on Spotify here.
PREPARE WELL FOR THE CELEBRATION OF CHRIST WITH AN ADVENT STUDY
Too often the familiarity of Christmas used to leave my faith feeling a bit dry this time of year (working retail during the holiday season didn’t help either). So a couple years ago I picked up an Advent devotional and calendar to help better prepare my heart for a holiday that is intended to stir up great rejoicing over the coming of my Savior. And I must say, it helped! Through simple readings, thoughts, or actions, I was able to better make room in my heart for the story of Christmas and see it flesh itself out better in my life.
I know Christmas is just two weeks away now, but it’s never too late to dive into Scripture to help prepare your heart for the coming celebration. One way I’m doing that this year is through She Reads Truth’s Advent reading plan. Each day there are a few passages of Scripture and a quick devotional to help you chew on what you read. If you’re interested in joining in, you can check out their website where they release daily content.
REPLACE MATERIAL GIFTS WITH QUALITY TIME
As I have gotten older, I have grown fonder of doing some sort of activity with loved ones in place of exchanging gifts on holidays. Gift giving can be tricky – it can feed into the commercialism at times, it can create pressure to get just the “right” thing, it can produce more STUFF – and if you are like me, you don’t have a need for more random stuff that you won’t use. A solution? Just spend time with the people you love and consider the gift that that is. As some examples, one year the girls in my husband’s family got pedicures and grabbed lunch together. Last year, my husband’s entire family enjoyed Top Golf and then had our normal Christmas potluck afterwards. Sharing a meal or an activity with loved ones can sometimes be more meaningful and memorable than exchanging gifts. I’ve especially grown an appreciation for this method because we live far away from family and only get to spend so much time with loved ones, so taking the time to do something goes so much further than handing over an object that may or may not be needed.
Something to note, though, is that there are many people that find great joy in giving and receiving gifts. So I’m not saying diminish gifts altogether. But it may be helpful to visit with your family about what brings everyone the most joy, and determining a plan from there – even if it is a bit unconventional. Maybe that means shifting HOW you exchange gifts, or maybe you alternate between gifts and family activities. However you do it, do what works best for you and your family.
IF YOU DO EXCHANGE GIFTS, SHOP IN A WAY THAT DIMINISHES STRESS
For many, the holiday season + retails stores = a hot mess of craziness. Aisles are cluttered with more people and more mess, and wait times are longer. If this makes you want to pull your hair out, it can put a big damper on your Christmas spirit. You can try and avoid the stress by doing some shopping online from the comfort of your couch next to the Christmas tree instead.
Or, if the endless options online overwhelm you (or if you just prefer to support brick and mortars), either plan to go shopping at a time that is a little less busy, or go in prepared for the craziness – give yourself some extra time to navigate through the mass amount of people and expect it to be busy so your patience doesn’t run thin. And please, please, please be kind to the retail workers – they’re usually doing the best they can in this busy season.
Also falling into this category is giving yourself enough time to shop so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute. This is advice that I certainly could take better myself, but the years that I do plan and figure things out a little earlier have always led to a less stressful holiday season.
No matter your shopping tactics, I suggest doing what works best for you, and brings you the most joy in the process.
There have been some Christmases that we haven’t traveled to be home with family for the holidays. We’ve hung back and celebrated just the two of us, or with friends where we live at the time (#militarylife). While this sounds a little sad, it brings a different benefit to the holiday season. There’s something really wonderful about slowing down and celebrating the holiday quietly, just like Mary and Joseph welcomed Jesus into this world in the quiet stable, away from all the noise in the inn. Quietly, unexpectedly. Slowing down can allow us some space to really see – really behold – the coming of our King. Because when we’re going, going, going, we might breeze right past it all. Don’t miss it. Take some time to slow down. Whether it’s a little bit each day, a day each week, or just a few hours one day leading up to Christmas to calm yourself, rid your mind of all the to-dos, and just rest in the anticipation of Christmas.
I hope that in the days left of this advent season that you are able to take some time to really rejoice over what Christmas is about – that amidst a broken and sinful world, Jesus came on a rescue mission for us all. And because of the success of that mission, we can have hope in Him to come again. I pray your Christmas spirit comes alive in new ways this year, and for all the years to come.