Many of us long for a simple and peaceful Christmas. We want to make the Christmas season meaningful and thoughtful even while it seems everything conspires against this. In this post, I’m sharing some changes you can implement in your home and life to make the most of the Christmas season while also seeking to make it simple and peaceful.
Whenever I approach a challenging situation, my natural inclination is to simplify. (I think the Christmas season can qualify as a challenge for many of us.) I ask myself how I can adjust the situation or my attitude to make it seem less overwhelming.
It’s a wonderful time of the year because we celebrate the birth of Christ. At the same time, pressures from without and within make it so easy to lose that focus. Here is where I think many Christians, in particular, make their critical mistake as they try to manage Christmas.
Rather than simplify and choose only that which is best, they try to do more and more.
We believe in the importance of focusing on the birth of Christ and so we add more and more ideas. We search for catchy ways to grab our children’s attention and show them that Christmas is about Jesus and not presents. We try to find the right activities, the right read alouds, and the right craft projects.
We add and add and add.
I’d like to humbly suggest that this is a mistake. Instead of adding more and more in an effort to focus on Christ, might it be better to simplify our approach? Yes, keep our focus on Christ. But not in any way that adds more busyness and lengthens our to do list for the holiday season.
Rather than asking yourself what you can add to your family celebration to remind everyone it is all about Christ, what about using what you already incorporate in your celebration?
- When you read your collection of Christmas books, look for one way in each book that someone was Christ-like.
- When you eat your chocolate advent calendar, try to determine one way the object could be related to Jesus or your faith.
- When you listen to Christmas music in the car, ask your child to share one thing that the song tells us about Jesus.
Sounds much easier, doesn’t it?
Instead of adding more and more to your celebration (which adds more stress to your life), try simplifying by making the most of what you already do.
A Quiet Christmas
We have a large wooden sign that hangs in our family room. It says:
“Let us be silent, so that we may hear the whisper of God.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I value quiet time with my thoughts. Not only do I value it, I need it. I need it to process and hear myself think. I need quiet so I can hear God speak. Although God can speak above the roar of any crowd because He is omnipotent, I have found that it is generally easier to hear Him when I am quiet.
Having a silent home for parts of the day has become exponentially easier as Caroline has gotten older and doesn’t need constant interaction and/or supervision. There were stretches during the early years when I wondered if there would ever be sustained silence in my home again. But now it is possible to find times of quiet.
Especially at Christmas, I think there is value in turning everything off and just sitting in the quiet. No music, nothing running. Just quiet. Sitting quietly in front of the lit Christmas tree in the dark. Sitting in front of the nativity and contemplating the coming of the baby, the wonder of the birth, the provision of a Savior, and the miracle of sin forgiven.
Recognizing He is the answer to generations of waiting and longing.
Read and Meditate on The Story
Christmas is the time we celebrate the ultimate story – the story of a baby sent to earth who would become the Savior. There is no story we could ever read that could replace the account of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. During the weeks of Christmastime, I encourage you to read and meditate on the different accounts of Christ’s birth in the Bible.
It is easy to quickly skim over them because we’ve read them and heard them so many times. This is unfortunate because the Lord can always make us see something with fresh eyes. Here’s my suggestion to make reading the Christmas story of Christ’s birth fresh this year.
Each week, read one chapter of the account of Christ’s birth from either Matthew 1-2 or Luke 1-2. Each day of that week, read it in a different version. Most of us have multiple versions of the Bible in our homes such as:
If you don’t have multiple versions of the Bible on hand, simply go to Bible Hub where you can read the entire Bible online in dozens of versions. You can also download a free Bible Gateway app if you have a Kindle. I especially like using this app to listen to the Bible being read to me.
Start the first week with Matthew 1. Read it each day in a different version. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to details you have never noticed. Compare the different versions and see how each one might shed a little more light on various passages.
The following week read and meditate on Matthew 2. The next week Luke 1 and the last week Luke 2. Rather than attempting to read widely during this Advent season, I encourage you to choose to dig deep.
Listen to God
Unless you are deaf, we all hear. But very few people become skilled listeners. Listening is a skill we must develop.
I remember teaching the twelve students in my first classroom how to listen. I created activities to do with them that required them to listen and process information carefully. This group of third, fourth, and fifth graders became excellent listeners. They learned how to block out distractions, focus, and carefully follow someone else’s words.
Likewise, listening to God is a skill that we must develop. There are many ways that God will get our attention and speak to us. I think the ways that He speaks to us are often unique to our personalities and situations. Naturally He will never speak in a way that contradicts His character or the Bible. But I believe with all my heart and based on my own experiences that God is masterful in finding personal ways to communicate with each of His children.
How might the Lord speak to someone?
- Through the beauty of His creation – birds, flowers, stars, frost.
- Through a repeated theme in books, sermons or articles we read – grace, love, forgiveness.
- Through hymns or songs.
- Through specific Scripture passages we are led to by the Holy Spirit.
- Through gifts or letters sent by other people.
The longer we walk with God, the more clearly we begin to see patterns in the ways He will get our attention and speak to us. Although He may not speak to us in an audible voice, we can become very skilled at listening to the way He speaks to us.
During this Christmas season, I challenge you to make a special effort to listen to God. Ask Him to open your eyes to what He has to show you. Look for the ways He is speaking to you through whatever means He chooses.
Wait, expectantly, on the Lord.
As you make decisions about what to do, where to go, and what to purchase during this Christmastime, ask the Lord specifically to guide you. Ask Him to keep you from mistakes and to have eyes to see what He wants to show you.
As you look to experience Christ’s peace during this season, make the effort to have some extended periods of prayer time alone. If we desire the peace of God that transcends all understanding to guard our heart and mind in Christ Jesus, then we should seek out the Lord and ask Him for this blessing.
May you be blessed with a peaceful and simple Christmas this year!