The only thing I really need to make this Christmas

(As a fun little bonus, I added an audio version of this post, if you'd rather listen than read...)

Christmas. It is hands-down my most favorite time of the year. I love just about everything about it. The trees. The decorations. The smells. The songs. The traditions. The Story.

I love it all.

Well, all except for the hustle and the bustle and the hurry and the worry that usually comes along with the season. “The most wonderful time of the year” can also be the craziest time of the year, can’t it? So many events and obligations fill the calendar so fast that there is barely any white space left at all. There’s always somewhere to be and something to do…there are lists upon lists that must be made and then checked twice. All the busyness can wear a person out and leave a soul feeling rather weary…at least, that’s how it has often left me feeling anyway.

In fact, I remember a Christmas not all that long ago when I had so much going on, so many events and plans and things on the “to-do” list, that I got to the point that I was just wishing for it all to be over so I could just get a break. I was trying to do it all, but I couldn't do it all. Shopping and baking and planning and making, going and doing and decorating and attending every. little. thing...all while working and mothering and wifing (is that even a word?)...and not doing any of it very well. I was exhausted. Burned out. Weary. I was so tired of Christmas. I cried a lot that year. I loved Christmas, but I had forgotten why. Truth was, I didn’t really like it anymore. It was too much work, it costed too much money, it caused too much worry…it was just too much.

After that Christmas, I knew something had to change. And it had to start with me. I knew my girls would one day look back at our Christmases, and I didn’t want them to remember a mom that was cranky and tired and crying because I couldn’t do it all, or a calendar that was so full and busy that all it reflected was a whole bunch of going and doing and not much being…being still, being awed, being together.

So I started getting really intentional. That next year, I made some hard choices. I gave up some good things for the sake of the best things. I slowed down. I stepped back. I prayed for a new perspective, a renewed heart, a refreshed spirit.

I am still praying for those things today.

Because the thing about slowing down the pace and hushing all the hurry in this season, and in any season, is that it has to be an almost-daily choice (at least for me it does), because there is always this pull to speed up and do more and spend more and make things bigger and “better” and louder and brighter…and more “Pinterest-picture-perfect”. Isn’t that kinda what most of the television commercials communicate in this season? Isn’t that what our culture seems to bend toward? This whole idea that bigger is better, and more is better, and that somehow the joy of the season can be bought or created somehow… (Am I the only one who feels that pressure during this season?)

But what I’m (ever so slowly) coming to realize and embrace is that, as much as I want to make Christmas special for my family, as much as I want to try to make these perfect memories and make my family happy…all I really need to make, is room for Jesus.

Just make space for Him.

Just invite Him into our family story, at Christmas and throughout the year. And then let Him make us into the family He created us to be.

Christmas changed for me when I gave myself permission to slow down, and when I intentionally shifted my focus from making Christmas perfect to making space for Jesus. Christmas changed when I started letting go of some good things for the sake of the best things.

So…do we still bake cookies and open presents and make ornaments and decorate a tree at Christmas? Yep! We do! Do we attend (a *very* limited number of) Christmas parties and string lights outside our house and watch Christmas movies? You bet! So what changed about how we do Christmas? Our hearts. Our perspective. Our pace.

I am really intentional about our family time at Christmas, because if I’m not intentional then it’s really easy for me to get sucked into the hurry and scurry of the season, and before I know it the calendar is filled and overflowing with all sorts of “good” things that leave little room for the slow embracing of the best things.

So I print out my little monthly calendar and we make a list as a family of the things we want to do together, memories we want to make. Then we plan them out throughout the month, these “Family Nights” that we all agree will be times when we set aside all the hurries and the worries and we slow down to simply be together.

Do our plans always work out? Do our family nights always go as planned? No, not always…not even close to always…but that’s ok. That’s not the point. The plans are always flexible…nothing on our calendar is required to happen in order to have a successful Christmas…there is no “Christmas Police” going around handing out tickets to us if we don’t bake cookies on the day we said we would, or if we don’t end up making that gingerbread house or watching that movie or making those ornaments the way we planned.

After all, we don’t really need to do anything to make Christmas happen…Jesus already did it all…we just have to make space for Him. And as long as we do that, as long as we invite Him into our plans, into our home and our hearts and our family, then no matter how our plans do or don’t work out, Christmas will always leave us in awe of the wonder of His great love for us, in it all and through it all.

So for the next 12 days, I’m doing a little "Twelve Days of Christmas" of my own. I'm going to share some of our favorite family Christmas traditions, and free printables for you to enjoy along the way! Some of these traditions help us intentionally focus our hearts on Jesus, some help us share a little joy with others, and some are just plain fun and we do for no other reason than to just have fun together…but they all help us spend intentional time together as a family and have provided us with so many wonderful memories. 

My hope is that maybe something here will inspire you and encourage you as you slow down the pace this season and simply make space for the One who loves you and your family so very much that He came…He came right for you, to save you, to free you, to be with you, at Christmastime and always.

So let's hush the hurry this Christmas, and embrace the greatest news that ever graced the dust this fallen world: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

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