With Thanksgiving behind us, we are all turning our hearts and minds towards the Christmas season. We are moving into one of the busiest times of the year. This is a time of the year that, as women, we feel the pressure. For the most part, it is the women who plan for the people coming to visit. It is the women who plan for the Christmas feast and all the other meals surrounding the holidays. It is the women who plan for the decorations and the gifts under the tree. If you are traveling, it is usually the women who do the packing for the family. Our responsibilities increase exponentially during the holiday season, and during 2020 that pressure is magnified because of all that we have been facing over the previous months: COVID-19, racial unrest and political uncertainty. This year, as we decide about our holiday plans, we have to think about the health and safety of our family as the news broadcasts the spike in new cases. You might be giving thought to the lack of peace and safety in your community. You might be concerned with the fact that your family has opposing political views and that these views may ruin the holiday dinner. This is our reality in December of 2020.
If we, as women, set the tone for our homes around the holidays, it would be good for us to stop, take a deep breath, pray and prepare our own hearts for the holiday season. Here are some steps that I have found helpful:
- Bring joy into the holiday season: I remember my mother decorating for the holidays. No matter what her scheme, she threw herself into it and did it with joy! I remember her laughter and the twinkle in her eye. Don’t plan for anything too complicated or anything that will raise the stress levels in your home. Some of the most beautiful homes I have been in are the ones that were decorated with simplicity.
- Have realistic expectations: It is quite possible, and actually quite probable, that the holiday will not go as expected. In our home, growing up, my brother accidentally set the house on fire during December one year and another Christmas he cut his hand and we spent part of the holiday in the Emergency Room. Even in the midst of some holiday upsets, we can be the calm in the chaos.
- Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons and Hallmark Movies are all fictional: I have been guilty in the past of trying to recreate the ambiance of a TV show or movie. When things did not go as planned, I was furious and ashamedly took it out on my family. Thank goodness they forgave me. Now, looking back on those moments, I can laugh at the crazy momma I was, and I am grateful for the husband and children who extended grace to me!
- Center your holiday around spiritual traditions: The world will be screaming at you and your children that Christmas is about Santa, getting toys, or taking elaborate trips. Even Facebook might challenge us that what we are doing for the holiday is not enough! Instead, focus your holiday around the true meaning of Christmas. Read Luke 2 often during the month. Light the advent wreath at night around the dinner table and read from an advent devotional…there are many to choose from online! Open an advent calendar that tells the Christmas story. Set your nativity out in a prominent place and keep the manger empty until Christmas morning! Run to the manger first before opening gifts! Focus on the Christ child during the upcoming days…you will not regret it.
- Are you an empty nester like I am?: Be flexible on when you celebrate the holiday. Our adult children are under pressure to try and make it all work with extended families. Be the one who makes it easy on everyone! Will you be alone on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Another gift that my mother gave me was complete understanding that my brothers and I could not be with her on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (It was too expensive to travel at that time for my brothers and I was married to a pastor who led the Christmas Eve Service each year! Instead, we all came to see her in January.) Did she sit around and mope? Absolutely not! She found ways to surprise her friends with little gifts. She even surprised the pest control man and the man who came to inspect her heater each year! Even as she aged, we continued to see that joy and sparkle that she had as a younger mom raising all three of us!
- Remember! 2020 has not been a surprise to God: Many times in scripture we are told, “Fear not!” We see this proclaimed by the angel when speaking to the shepherds in Luke chapter 2. We see it in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Psalm 27:1 says, ”The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” God is sovereign. He knew all of 2020 was headed our way. He has promised us that he will never leave us. He was with Joseph when he was alone in a pagan land. He strengthened and blessed Queen Esther as she advocated for her people in the land of Persia. Daniel was not alone as he stood for God in Babylon. Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Whether it is a pandemic, an election or cultural unrest, God was not taken by surprise. We can rest in his provision and care.
As we enter the Christmas season with all of life’s uncertainties around us, we have a choice to make. Will we join the overwhelmed and fearful community around us, or will we be the one who calmly points to the baby in the manger…Emmanuel…God with us? Let’s be the one who brings Jesus back into the season that is already his!