The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35 (NLT)
A couple years ago, my mother gave me an ornament that read, God rest ye merry gentlemen . . . the women are too busy!
I keep that ornament up all year long by my desk. It makes me laugh because it’s so true!
As women, it seems that the joy of the holidays often falls on us to create. Some of us just got done with holiday merrymaking last week with Thanksgiving, and today we dive headfirst into the Advent season. Women tend to be the glue that holds family together, purchasing the perfect gifts and wrapping them, coordinating everyone’s schedules and activities, remembering church commitments, writing the Christmas cards, lighting the candles, planning the meals . . . and the question is, when do we enjoy our silent nights?
We don’t want to remove anything from our to-do lists, and friends, that is really okay. The items on our lists are there for a reason, and especially after the last few years we’ve had, it’s fine for the tasks to stay. Often, keeping and completing them means that the people we love will have a beautiful holiday season — even if it means we burn our candle at both ends to make it happen.
But sometimes, it’s simply too much.
In addition to the usual holiday festivities, two of my kids have birthdays in November and December. This adds a couple more major events to keep track of during an already full season. One year, my brain and task lists were over full, and it was just too much for me to think about sending Christmas cards.
Before then, I’d never missed a year of sending cards out. I love cards. I have a Christmas card spreadsheet (which, if you know me, is completely unsurprising.) Even when I had each of my holiday season babies — my daughter right before Thanksgiving and my son right before Christmas — I managed to send out Christmas cards. I mean, they doubled as birth announcements and went out after New Years, but technically I got them done!
But that one year, everything just felt like too much. So I didn’t do cards — even though we had great updates for a Christmas letter and we had new family pictures. And you know what? I didn’t even really miss them. I wasn’t upset or disappointed, and neither was anyone else. Taking the cards off my list freed up time, money, and brain space, and it was absolutely the best choice for me. The late nights I would’ve spent addressing, stamping, stuffing, and sealing envelopes, I popped popcorn and watched a cheesy holiday movie in front of the fireplace. I used the time I would’ve spent scrolling card options online to wrap gifts, setting them under the tree nice and early. And the money I would’ve spent on beautiful cards and stamps, I spent instead on a few extra gifts for our church angel tree.
Then the next year when my brain and schedule were clearer, I sent the cards again, and I did so with joy — largely due to the break I’d taken the prior year.
Friends, as we enter the season of Advent today, I ask you: What do we need to take off our plates in order to let our hearts breathe?
When do we pause to enjoy this time of Advent?
What must we loosen from our grasp so that we may instead grasp that which makes Christmas what it is — a birthday celebration of the highest importance for a baby born holy? Is it the cards or the annual open house we host? Is it bringing two dozen homemade cookies to the preschool pageant or traveling out of state for the holidays?
Whatever your “it” is, you can let it go for a season. You have permission to break tradition in order to maintain your focus. Taking a breather doesn’t mean you’ll never do “it” again. Taking a breather simply means you’re making space for what matters most, living into your top priorities, and taking time to breathe. Rest. Enjoy. Remember the reason for the celebration.
Let’s only keep the things that matter most on the list and let go of all the rest.
Lord, above all, we praise You. This is first and the best way to prioritize — to think on what brings You praise and glory. The rest can fall to the wayside. We love You first, Lord. Help us loosen our grip so that we may grasp Your hands. Amen.