I think we all come into Advent with the best of intentions. We’re going to get all the shopping done early, stay in budget, keep Jesus at the center, have meaningful conversations, give meaningful gifts, create margin, give generously, bake beautiful cookies, send cards, sing carols, stay healthy, get sleep, and allow ourselves numerous quiet moments in front of the tree to thank God for the grace of an Incarnate Son who comes to rescue and redeem the world.
And then reality hits.
We find ourselves overwhelmed, stressed, tense, and just trying to get through the whole thing all the while promising ourselves that NEXT year is going to be totally different.
But I would like to think this year can still be different. Yes, you might have to jettison some of your plans and you might not meet everyone else’s expectations but it is not too late to enjoy this Christmas. We just need to get clear about what really matters to us this Christmas. Before we make promises about next year, we need to figure out what we’re looking for this year.
For what it’s worth, here’s my list of what matters to me this Christmas.
- Time for prayer. Probably no surprise (I hope!) that Jesus was going to be first on my list. But I wanted to be more specific so faith or spirituality doesn’t become a vague platitude. I want more time for prayer this Christmas, not less.
- Meaningful connection with those closest to me. Rather than being spread thin, I want to go deep with those I love the most. I’m also really aware that in order to have anything to offer my family and friends, I need time with God in prayer (see point 1).
- Give generously and joyfully. For me this is about participating in what God is doing in the world and about fighting greed and materialism in my heart. But what really matters to me on this one is my motivation and attitude in giving – fighting against fear, duty, or obligation and finding joy in opportunities to bless others.
That’s it. That’s what really matters to me this Christmas. Knowing that and being able to share it with others creates so much clarity for me as I navigate this season.
The point of a list like this is not to create some brutal gauntlet that all requests for my time, energy, and money need to pass through before I say yes. Nor is the point to be overly legalistic and rigid. My Christmas will not consist solely of time alone, deep conversations, and moments of spontaneous generosity (although that doesn’t sound bad!!). The point is knowing what matters so that we don’t just endure Christmas but enjoy it.
I’m praying the Lord will give each of us the grace and courage we need to treasure these days and find what our hearts are truly longing for this Christmas. May the grace of Christ guide us to the joy of Christmas.