Have you started singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” yet? Admittedly, I’m a humming machine right now. The sights, sounds, and nostalgia of the holiday season have drawn me in, and my senses are celebrating from the simple pleasures.
As I snuggle in my cozy blanket on the sofa, candles flicker on our kitchen table, twinkly white lights grace the doorframes, soft music plays in the background, and the aroma of sweet treats permeate the kitchen. (Frozen cookie dough for the win.)
Our girls’ giggles echo from upstairs as they play with their friends, and the song’s stanza “kids jingle belling” brings about new meaning. It’s the kind of easy evening captured in movies. The kind of easy evening in which everyone wishes they could be included — one with friends and family, community and conversation.
And then my eyes skim the rest of our home. I spy the sink flooded with the morning’s dishes, the laundry piles towering on the chair, the foyer stacked with boxes, my overbooked day planner, and somewhere along the way my Normal Rockwell portrait shatters amid real life.
The thought of “parties for hosting” between Thanksgiving and Christmas gets tossed to the curb next to the Amazon Prime boxes. Panic sets in. Friends can’t come calling — my house is too small, too disorganized, too loud to practice any kind of hospitality. I hear arguing from upstairs, and those joy filled giggly girls from moments ago are now bickering over outfits.
And we’re expected to sing “Peace on Earth”? Many of us want to practice peace, but this time of year has us floundering. There’s a delicate tension, isn’t there?
Our hearts’ desire is to welcome the long-awaited Advent season with soul-filled expectation, yet we’re pulled in a million directions in our already maxed-out schedule. The reality of purchasing presents puts additional financial pressure to buy stuff that we don’t need with money we don’t have. We’re expected to sign up and show up and sprint from one expectation to another, so how can we seek Him first, savor a simple season, and make meaningful memories?
Simply, we prioritize Whom this Advent season is truly about — the birth, celebration, and wonder of our newborn King, our Savior. We remember what makes it memorable over the course of a lifetime. It’s always the little things that are the big things, like family karaoke to the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” gathering around the table, sleeping under the Christmas tree lights, and picnics on the family room floor. Those are the things they’ll always remember. And lastly, when we solidify our compelling reason why we celebrate in the season, the hows will fall peacefully into place.
When my daughters start reminiscing about why this is their favorite time of the year, not one thing included spending much money. It wasn’t a big present they remembered. It wasn’t the vacation cruise we went on (okay, we never took one so that doesn’t count). It wasn’t all the decorations I spent money on. It was the experiences, the traditions, our Jesse Tree devotional, the music and laughter – the simple times we gathered together.
I have been sharing “It’s the little things that are the big things” since I started writing here, and the best part about it? With history behind me, it’s still true! A peaceful Christmas (and Thanksgiving) can be cultivated by determining your priorities a whole month ahead of time. It will be different for every family, and there’s no one right way to travel through December, but my heart’s desire is to see you embrace its simplicity with expectation.
I’ve purposed in my heart to claim this December as His, and I invite you to join me. This Advent season celebrates our Savior’s birth through the simplest of arrivals, so follow His lead. Don’t over-complicate, over-schedule, and overthink this precious season. Be intentional today about carving margin into your calendar, mark in free days, and guard that down time like it’s your job. Release unrealistic expectations and embrace the beauty that comes from simplicity.
Grace on. Guilt off. We prioritize Jesus first and then enjoy these simple additions.
Here’s my simple to-do list for creating a peaceful Christmas:
- Slow down, stop, and sip the eggnog (or coffee with eggnog).
- Light the candles and white lights because everything is better with twinkle lights. Take a minute to create a gratitude list and add to it throughout the month.
- Crank the Christmas carols and dance in the kitchen like no one is watching. Or better yet, gather the kids, embarrass them for a minute, and twirl them around with everyone watching.
- Give the gift of experiences this year rather than purchases we can’t afford. Statistically, the majority of us will add credit card debt to our already stressed finances. Don’t complicate your January by starting 2020 in the hole. It’s never worth it. Check out some of the simple experiences we’ve given.
- Cultivate strong family ties by adding at least one simple tradition. Start it, commit to it, and in twenty years, that is what everyone will remember. Need inspiration? I’ve been sharing our traditions for a decade here.
- Say no to filling your calendar with activities that add stress. Right now, carve out multiple days for simple family or friend time. For peace to reign this month, we must have meaningful margin.
- Gather often. Just open the door. With friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, time together doesn’t have to be all-consuming; simple gatherings make the season sweeter.
I’ve learned that special moments, created with love and intentionality, are embraced and appreciated just like those that took weeks of planning. So rather than seeing December as a month filled with hectic line items on your busy to-do list, ask God to open your heart to new ways of embracing the joy-filled abundance and peace of the season.
What are some of your ideas to reclaim the season?
Release unrealistic expectations and embrace the beauty that comes from simplicity. -Jen Schmidt, @beautyandbedlam: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Asking you for strength, your strength and bless me with good health and energy!! To set an example for my children on what the season is truly about, above Santa and gifts…the story of your birth and how blessed we are for you and the sacrifices you made! Amen!!
Great post and reminder Jennifer as we head into the Christmas season!
Jen Schmidt says
Echoing that prayer!!
Sweet blessings to you this Thanksgiving week.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Twinkling lights on (along with grace), Guilt off. If I could only pick three things to set out at Christmas, first would be my advent devotional and my Jesse tree. I look forward to Dec. 1 to intentionally prepare my heart for Christmas. Second would be my nativity set that is carved from olive wood from Bethlehem. It gets a special place front and center. Third would be my tree. Our eclectic hodgepodge of ornaments reminds me of sweet and bittersweet memories (the birth of children, pets who’ve passed, crafts made with love). And yes…dance in the kitchen to Christmas music, even if your children are grown. Great reminders to focus on the “Whom” this season is all about!
Jen Schmidt says
We’ve done our Jesse tree for years too, and it’s one of my favorite Christ centered traditions, but last year, after doing it for 20 years, I didn’t get it out. That was not okay so hunting it down this year for sure.
Michele Morin says
I’m singing a holiday hallelujah for this-> “the little things are the big things.”
And so far, I’ve been pretty strategic this year on maintaining space for those little things. In my case, it’s little people: two grandchildren who love to bake cookies with me, and who need to have read to them all the Christmas story books we’ve collected over the years.
Jen Schmidt says
Oh, I can’t wait to have those moments with our grand kids. Such wonderful memories you’re creating, Michele. 🙂
Beth Williams says
Society makes the holidays all about buying & spending. Everyone needs gifts. If you think about it Jesus is the one “real true” gift. Not many people take the time to think or realize that. Christmas is all about Jesus who left the splendor of Heaven & came down to broken Earth. I don’t over schedule myself during the holidays. I do those activities that I have time to enjoy & the others I skip. God understands. Our church used to go Christmas Caroling to nursing homes. That was fun & uplifting. Made the residents happy for a few minutes. I put up a small “Charlie Brown” tree complete with ornaments & lights. Dance & song along with all kinds of Christmas music. That really puts me in the mood. This year if I can find one I will do a “senior tree” gift. Similar to Angel tree only for senior citizens-an often forgotten group during the holidays. So easy to buy a few nice things to make their days a bit cheerier. This year is a bit tougher than others. FIL is getting out of hospital today (11/25) going home on hospice. Had bilateral ischemic attack about 4 weeks ago, has stage III bladder cancer, bladder infection & is weak. This year is more about family & just being with each other than anything else. I believe the holidays are primarily about being with friends & family. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks to God for the bountiful harvest He provided. Christmas is about singing happy birthday Jesus & remembering the ultimate gift.
Jen Schmidt says
Beth – I am so very sorry to hear about your FIL. Those kinds of diagnosis puts everything into perspective this season, don’t they? Will be praying that your family has an extra sweet measure of savoring time together and celebrating and sharing special memories.
Much love from all of us at incourage,
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Yes Christmas can be nice. But we don’t want to forget the real meaning of Christmas. The real present given to us that baby born in a manger. Who was the best present given to all the world. That went on to die on Calvary’s Cross because he love us all so much. No better present could God have given us that was his one and only son Jesus. Born in on fancy place. Just a manger with animals. We as followers of Jesus can give that present back to all that are not saved. By showing Jesus love to people that are not saved by living our lives in front of them for Jesus. Then telling them the best story of all. About how Jesus came into the world and was born in a stable and went on Calvary’s cross for them because he loved them so much and Died for their Sins. Then you never know hopefully with them hearing that. They might give their lives to Jesus and get saved. As no better present could you give them. This is one you can’t buy them in the shops. This is best present you if saved can give that unsaved person you know this Christmas. You another thing that is so great about it. Not like the gifts in the shop. It will cost you no money to tell it too them. But before you tell it too them. Pray and as God through his Holy Spirit to helping you know when to share it with them. It is a simple story to share with them. Not like the businesses of this time of year Christmas time going shopping for presents. When shops can be so busy. Quing up for to pay for suff can seem like for ever. You say I not doing all this next year. Going round the shops shopping for this person and this person quing for ages and ages. The stress not worth it. Then your tired and you come home and take it out on your family. You don’t mean too. Christmas should at this time of year not be it like this. Especially getting parked to go shopping. No wonder you are stressed up. It should just be about the real present that was given to us. That was Jesus who was born in Manger. Who came to save the world. That went on to Clavary Cross. Let get back to that. Not the stress of the world way of Christmas and busy shops being busy and the car parks being busy. Them making you spend money. You might also not gave to make your family feel good. Then you spend such and such on a gift and you think it lovely. Then they say nice and not really want it. You say why did I bother. You feel your blood pressure go up yourself getting mad. Is Christmas worth the hassle. Let get back to the true meaning of it Jesus. He is the reason we have it in the first place. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xxxx
Jen Schmidt says
Yes, Dawn, to so much of this. Remember who and why we celebrate…..it’s all about Jesus.
Have a wonderful Week of gratitude. 🙂
K Ann Guinn says
Thanks for this good reminder. I have struggled with wanting to do ALL the Christmas things over the years, not because I have to, but because I want to. It would be easier to let things go if I didn’t love doing them so much. But I’m learning more and more as I get older to find balance and to realize what’s important. One of the best ideas that’s helped me is to realize that just because I don’t do a certain tradition one year doesn’t mean I can’t do it on another. It might just be a break.
My favorite line you wrote today is this, “For peace to reign this month, we must have meaningful margin.” I think that’s a good summary of how I want to plan our holidays.
May we continue to learn how best to celebrate the greatest gift. God bless us every one.
Jen Schmidt says
K Ann – I am with you. We want to do all the things because they’re special and let people know that we love them, but you’re right, the margin needs to be carved in for us to actually savor and enjoy those things, right?
Here’s to learning together how to best celebrate our greatest gift. 🙂
Becky Keife says
“Be intentional today about carving margin into your calendar, mark in free days, and guard that down time like it’s your job.” Amen! This is so good, Jen!
Jen Schmidt says
Thanks friend – I know we are in this together.
love ya and miss you,
Nancy Ruegg says
Just recently, a friend called to say he’d made a big pot of seafood chowder, would we be available to come for supper–in an hour and a half?! Thankfully, we were, because the chowder was fantastic, but best of all was joining them at their family table as if we were family too, and chatting the evening away. You are so right, Jennifer: “Simple gatherings make the season sweeter.” Less stress means more pleasure for everyone–hosts and guests alike, I think.
Jen Schmidt says
Oh Nancy –
There’s nothing I love more than spontaneous hospitality like that. What a good friend and wonderful evening. 🙂
yes I like to think Christ came to us in the silence of a night that long ago evening..all these man made material expectations fade by the way side here.
with our Christmas we pace ourselves , a little baking each weekend and invites for weekend visits are sent far in advance so I can enter my season of Christmas with peace and maintain it. enjoy a calm Christmas with God first invited into our homes and our family at ease and rest .