Every year I had the best of intentions. I’d run with open arms into all things pumpkin. My dreams would be filled with falling leaves, treasured family times, and a beautiful season of thanking God. Yet somehow I’d get to the big day with a Pinterest-filled list of things I HAD to do to make it perfect.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some Pinterest. Totally. Why reinvent what some other creative mind has already made easy? Except that sometimes we get so focused on making pretty things and doing “special” activities that we completely miss the mark. The day comes and goes and we feel more empty than when it began.
But there’s no time to worry about that because the Black Friday sales start at 6pm and we just keep right on going.
Before long, we find ourselves lost in a pile of wrapping paper and fretting over a mountain of debt. It’s not that we ever hoped to be there. We know the real meaning of the season. We have priorities and we don’t want our lives to be about “stuff.” But sometimes we just get caught up in the hustle and bustle of it all.
Over the years I have found myself slowly removing those things that imprison my holidays. I’ve become more intentional about how I want to spend my time and about what I allow to come into my mind when it comes to the “perfect day.” I have found that the more intentional I am about focusing on Jesus, the more we enjoy the holidays.
It’s funny that we’d miss such an important and simple point, but it’s so true. The more intentional we are about focusing on Jesus, the more we will enjoy the holidays!
4 Ways to Put More Jesus into Your Holidays
1. Serve. Serve. Serve.
I know this isn’t a novel idea when it comes to the holidays, but honestly it tends to come as an afterthought, or something we do if we can find time. A few years ago, we changed that in our family. Instead of spending time entertaining ourselves with parades, parties, and wish-list filling, we started a new tradition: RACK.
It’s short for Random Acts of Christmas Kindness and it’s the most fun you’ll ever have in a month. We sneak around leaving random goodness for other people. You can get in on it with some free printables in our Ultimate Holiday Collection.
This year we extended the idea to writing thank you cards for people we appreciate like our pastor, community workers, and neighbors. Now we will spend time all the way from the turning of the leaves until the New Year serving and loving on others. (You can get our Thanksgiving cards free in the Ultimate Holiday Collection, too.)
This is another one of those things we already know we “should” do around the holidays. But yeah, we don’t. Well, to be fair, we do throw some change in the Salvation Army kettle, but that’s usually about it.
A few years ago I was convicted over this one, too. If Christmas isn’t about giving, what is it about? Jesus is the ultimate gift and sacrifice. The whole idea behind gifts revolves around this fact. The thing is, we get wrapped up in the getting part of giving. Someone has to receive in all the giving, right? Trust me, I want to be the one getting, too. It’s just who we are in the flesh. (Come on, admit it.) We love it when people do something special for us.
What we have to remember is that the focus of what we do should be on giving to others. As adults this isn’t so hard. We don’t have an army of relatives insisting on a wish list. But for kids, it can be a challenge. One thing I’ve done is to have my kids keep a list all year long. We do this on Amazon since our family is all out of state.
The list is cut off by early fall. I don’t ask them what they want and I don’t encourage them to add to the list. I’ve found that this satisfies the grandparents who want to buy things the children will enjoy and at the same time, it keeps the focus on the right things when the holiday gets closer. (In a perfect world, we would throw the wish list out, but in my world, this is the best way to keep the family peace.)
Ok, so now that we have the getting part out of the way, we focus on the giving. Our RACK and Thanksgiving Cards activities are two great ways to give with little people. We just mix serving and giving into the activities we choose. Sometimes we participate in things like serving at soup kitchens and making a box for Operation Christmas Child, too.
But our most favorite Christmas gift every year is picking out something from the Samaritan’s Purse gift catalog. It’s not that I’m against sending cute socks, pencils, and candy around the world to a child who has never gotten a gift like that. It’s a beautiful ministry. But the gift catalog offers a really humbling perspective on what kids around the world really need.
Each year we pick something like a goat, chickens, filters, or even fresh water wells. You can give for less than a trip to McDonalds, but the impact on your children will be priceless. Every year my kids anxiously await the arrival of the catalog so we can browse through and pick something to give.
3. Write a mission statement for the holidays.
If I had to guess, I’d say most parents don’t think of this one. At least I know it never came naturally to me to really think about any of this. I knew the basics. Thanksgiving is for thanking God and Christmas is to celebrate His birth. What else do you need to know, right? Until I had kids, I never thought about what I was celebrating or why.
Honestly, it took a while for me to see how harmful this way of thinking can be. Let’s take a silly example: the ugly sweater party. (Now, I have nothing against a little fun so don’t panic. This is a playful example of how traditions begin.) Have you ever considered where this idea might be by the time our kids are in their 30’s? It’s not only possible that the ugly sweater party is a part of nearly everyone’s celebration, it’s possible that we can begin to feel as if we haven’t really had Christmas without it.
Do you see where I’m going with this? That great monster of discontentment is lurking in every crevice when it comes to holidays. If we don’t have a purpose, we will find ourselves miserable and feeling desperate for a more “Pinterest-perfect” celebration like we think all of our friends have.
If we sit down before the hustle of the holiday and write out what we believe, why we celebrate, and what goals we have, we will be much less likely to make decisions based on what others are doing. And we will find the joy and peace the songs promise. It’s ok to get ideas from Pinterest, friends, and neighbors. The danger comes when we let those ideas consume us. Start with a mission statement and your family will be much less likely to become focused on all the wrong stuff.
4. Stop being so busy. Start making real memories.
We did Santa as a family once. The kids were too little to remember it at all. Their dad and I spent hours orchestrating the whole thing. We talked at length about which presents were from us and which were from Santa. We played the thing up for weeks, maybe months. To be honest, I was exhausted.
When it was all over we didn’t even need to talk about what happened. We both knew. This was for the birds. We had spent so much energy trying to make Santa something special that we had little energy left for Jesus. That was the last time we ever tried that.
Now don’t get me wrong, the whole Santa thing is a fun game to play with your kids. But for me, Christmas can only be about one thing. It was either Santa or Jesus. I didn’t have the energy to do them both well. So Santa got the boot.
Of course, I’m not telling you to do that. But I am encouraging you to go back to #3. Create a mission statement and then very intentionally choose activities that help you accomplish that mission. Be selective. VERY selective. And don’t give in to the pressure of the season.
One thing we have done to help with this is to focus on the hymns associated with each holiday. You can read more about how we’ve done that here.
So how about you? Have you tried any of these ideas? What works in your family? Leave a comment below and share with us!