I loved Christmas when I was a kid. The time off school. Opening presents. Christmas Eve worship. All the Norwegian food: lefse, lutefisk, kumbla, and risengrynsgrøt. The smell of the fireplaces in the cold air when walking to grandpa and grandma’s house. Time with my brothers and sisters.
One would think a pastor loves the season. Until a few years ago, I never really found that to be the case. I remember going home on Christmas Eve and crashing. For like a week. It marked the end of a long season. Christ entering the world should energize. I was exhausted.
A few years ago, I worked with a coach and made some changes. I knew I wasn’t going to get a different result until I changed things. I’m finding great joy in the season again and am more prepared to invite Jesus deeper into my life. Here was my action plan:
- Serve people. Serve people who can do nothing for you in return. Old people. Young people. Poor people. Homeless people. Grumpy people. You’ll most likely have to challenge yourself and that is a good thing. Serve people who can help you and serve them anonymously. Surprise a neighbor or co-worker or loved one or stranger in line behind you at the drive-thru. Make somebody smile. Be a blessing.
- Watch a few Christmas movies. It’s a Wonderful Life is a good place to start. Home Alone is my personal favorite. You can’t go wrong with Miracle on 34th Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, or a Christmas Carol. Art gives a glimpse into the way life could be. These movies aren’t a distraction, but an investment of time. Watch them with others and talk about them.
- Give more. Spend less. The people who track such things report Christmas spending is way up this year. But the best gifts don’t cost much. They don’t have to cost anything. Write some notes of encouragement. Deliver them or mail them. Spend some quality time with loved ones—disengage from the world for a while. It will be fine without you. Make something for somebody. Clean something for somebody.
- Say “No.” You don’t have go to every ugly sweater party you are invited to. You don’t need to attend your year-end Fantasy Football or Bunco shindig either. It’s your life…do the things you want with the people you want.
- Give up on perfectionism. Perfection is unattainable and creates a lot of stress. Nothing wrong with some nice looking lights or Christmas packages or Christmas dinners. Unless the stress to create zaps the life out of the creator. Sometimes pretty good is greater than perfect. Stop stressing out and start having fun.
- Simplify. If sending out a Christmas card ranks right up there with going to the proctologist, don’t send a Christmas card this year. The seventy-three people on your mailing list will survive. Your kids don’t need everything they want and teaching them such a thing is a gift. Jesus only got three presents and he did alright. Simplicity allows us to focus on the things and people who matter most.
I hope these ideas fill you with joy and help you invite Christ deeper into your life this Christmas.