By Ashley McIlwain
Thanksgiving has just passed, and Christmas is approaching. It’s the most wonderful time of year with so much to be thankful for and celebrate. But sometimes, it can be stressful, frustrating, and overwhelming too. With all of the parties, packages, problems to solve, and places to be, there are times when the tasks are daunting, and the thought of being merry seems very unlikely.
We all feel like this from time to time during the holiday season, but the question is, “What do we do to manage the stress than can come with Christmas?” It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times as I’ve felt myself moving toward the Scrooge end of the spectrum rather than the jolly end. Well, here are some things that help me and my husband manage the holiday hurdles, and I hope they do the same for you.
Remember what it’s all about.
Christmas isn’t about how many bows you tie or presents you buy. It’s not about chaos or craziness. It’s irrelevant how many cookies you bake or stockings you hang. In fact those things really have nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas.
It’s easy to get caught up in the pandemonium this time of year can bring, but we need to remember what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about celebrating hope that was brought to us through a tiny baby in a manger so many years ago (Luke 2:16). It’s about a Savior who gives us joy, comfort, and peace amidst any and all of life’s ups and downs (Luke 2:10-11). It’s about celebrating the freedom that comes from a God who loves us enough to send His one and only son to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
So, when you’re tied up and twisted in ribbons and wrapping paper, remember that Christmas is all about Christ. Shed the layers of stress we’ve put on ourselves to revere and relish in the simplicity of the original Christmas.
Once I’ve got my heart and mind in the right place, I’m ready to streamline my Christmas plans. We simply cannot go to everything, do everything, and be everything during this time of year. Sure it’s all fun and seems necessary, but it’s not.
Look at that mountain-high to do list, and start slashing the things that are going to steal your joy this Christmas. Don’t do things simply out of obligation, but rather, choose to do things that are contributing to the Christmas spirit. What’s really important? What is special and exciting? Better to cut back and enjoy the things you do commit too than to spread yourself so thin that you don’t enjoy any of it.
Many people this time of year get themselves into a financial bind. There’s a lot of pressure and expectation about buying gifts and keeping up with all of the Christmas expenses. Don’t allow yourselves to get into a situation that will cause strain on your wallet, marriage, family, and Christmas celebrations.
Come up with a budget to spend on gifts and happenings, and stick to it! If need be, draw names with your relatives so that you are only buying 1 gift instead of 10. Rather than buying all of your friends gifts, decide to get together and do something like Operation Christmas Child where you’re making a difference in someone else’s life. Do what you need to do to keep things in perspective and out of debt.
Attitude is Everything
A common issue that arises around Christmas is spending time with your in-laws. Some dread that thought, and it can cause a lot of hurt, anger, and damage. What you’ve got to realize is that you married your spouse and their family. You can’t afford to treat them poorly or as unimportant. Your attitude is everything.
It is a privilege to gain a family through marriage. Sure, there are issues and struggles that you face adjusting to the new dynamics, traditions, and general ways of operating, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are a lot of wonderful things that you can gain, enjoy, and learn from your spouse’s family.
A bad attitude is only going to lead to misery. No one ever goes into a situation with a bad attitude and comes out being pleasantly surprised. When you go into a situation with a good attitude, you determine the course of the event. Make the most of the situation. Squeeze out every ounce of joy, happiness, love, and grace that you possibly can; it’s the greatest gift you could give your spouse, your in-laws, and yourself.
Christmas really is the most wonderful time of year! There is so much to enjoy and savor. When those Scrooge-like feelings, thoughts, and situations begin to creep into the celebration, squash them with the joy of Christmas. This is a time for peace, joy, love, hope, and celebration!
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. –Luke 2:10-11