Don’t we all desire a more peaceful Christmas? Our peace begins to dwindle from November 1st until the decorations come down sometime in January. Then, continues as the credit card bills start coming in. While our peace evaporates, stress and anxiety rise. What a shame when the reason for the holiday is the celebration of the Prince of Peace.
What if I told you that you really can let go of some of the anxiety and overwhelm of the holiday season with some simple ways to create a more peaceful Christmas? Just making these simple changes helped me celebrate from a peaceful place.
You can too!
We all want a peaceful Christmas, but, “Life gets busy.” The times we are forced to slow down help us discover we actually CAN let go of some tasks and duties.
3 ways to create a more peaceful Christmas
1. Remember the Source of Our Peace
Isaiah 9:6 reminds us that Jesus came as our Prince of Peace: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
God isn’t ever troubled by a busy schedule or the arrival of family. If we think back to Jesus’s example: He was never in a hurry or rushing to His next kingdom appointment. In fact, what I find most amazing is that Jesus only ever had three years to complete His earthly ministry. Despite such a relatively short tenure on earth, He never rushed from one place to another. Instead, He only ever went, did, or said what His heavenly father told Him.
Likewise, we would be wise to remember that not everything that comes across our path to do, especially during the holiday season, is God-ordained. If we would begin the day in prayer, asking God for His wisdom, direction, and discernment to know what He wants us to do each day, and the ability to let other things go, we could remain in a position of peace rather than falling down the slippery slope into worry, fear, and anxiety about everything that isn’t getting done. God will never ask us to do more than time allows, although He may ask us to reprioritize some things in order to do what He has asked.
Colossians 3:15 reminds us to “Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”
As believers of Jesus Christ, we carry His peace with us. So even when we walk into stressful or chaotic environments, we can bring His peace with us and influence the situation.
2. Assess and Reduce Our Expectations
Much of our worry, fear, and anxiety come from trying to control things that are beyond our control. When we’ve asked God for His guidance and direction about what we need to do and when, we limit taking on too much of what might seem like a good thing that, in reality, may actually force us to sacrifice the best thing (like time in His presence for our daily quiet times).
If we think back to the story of Jesus’s visit to Mary and Martha’s house, I think it’s fair to stay that that while Mary kept her peace despite having guests in her home, Martha quickly sacrificed her peace when she fell into worry and anxiety:
“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:40-42)
Much of what contributes to our worry and anxiety, especially during the holidays, is trying to meet expectations: ours and others’. So one thing that can help trade our worry, anxiety, and overwhelm for His peace is to reduce others’ expectations.
I come from a family where my mother was always ready to entertain anyone who happened by, and that meant having dozens of different types of home-baked cookies during the holidays. When she died, I assumed that I had to carry on with the same traditions I had brought from my youth. But when cancer struck our family, it was all I could do to keep up with doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy treatment, much less continue with all the normal holiday traditions.
I sat my family down, and we talked about some of the changes that needed to happen in order for us to enjoy the holidays together with minimal stress and maximal peace. We talked about the things that were most important to each family member, that wouldn’t feel like Christmas if we did without. That helped me understand their expectations while communicating the realistic need for simplicity.
So that year, I decorated early for Christmas, knowing that if I didn’t do it early, it probably wouldn’t get done. That being said, I asked my family members to help decide upon their favorite decorations, and used those in the décor, choosing a “light” holiday decorating that year instead of going all out. Consider choosing to decorate with only the most treasured and essential holiday décor.
Holiday baking always represents a stressful event to me, although I love making things for my family to enjoy. That year, rather than making a dozen different types of cookies, each family member chose their favorite cookie so that they wouldn’t be disappointed but it minimized the time and stress involved in baking when I needed to direct my attention elsewhere. In addition to enlisting the help of everyone in the family in the festive kitchen merriment, consider only making each person’s most favorite cook or holiday dish.
That year, and every year since, we have become much more conservative with respect to our time. While many people and jobs have holiday parties and gatherings, we made the decision that if events didn’t add joy to our life, then we declined invites in order to preserve our time for functions that brought joy to our hearts and the season. Consider limiting engagements to those that are the most important or can be enjoyed as an entire family or which will add to your joy.
Gift-giving is another area where the commercialism of today can certainly add to expectations and our stress. Many families I know either draw names so that each person only exchanges with one individual and can put their efforts and their finances into one really nice gift for someone rather than several smaller, perhaps less appreciated gifts by many. Another way many families reduce not only stress, but the expectation their family members have about gifts is to limit gifts to three: a) a clothing item, b) a utilitarian item that they need, and c) something fun or highly desired. Limiting gift exchanges can take the focus off the buying, wrapping, and giving, and can help focus our attention on the people and the memories we love.
Another thing that steals our peace is our expectations of others. Whether we have visions in our mind of how someone will respond when we give them that carefully selected gift we picked out for them, or we know how we’d like them to behave during get-togethers. I have found that if we can go into situations expectation-free, it actually freed me up to approach the situations from a place of peace and anxiety-free. Releasing our expectations for others’ behavior will minimize our disappointment and let us keep our peace.
3. Choose Your Focus
Regardless of whether we are talking about everyday life or the holidays in particular, we more easily fall prey to worry, fear, and anxiety and lose our peace when we take our eyes off God and put them on our circumstances.
During the holidays, it becomes tempting to dispense with some of our usual routines. From morning devotions to quality sleep or regular physical exercise, we often let some of our most crucial routines in order to do more and be more places. When we choose to focus on our healthy routines and make them a focus before we add more to the day, we have more energy and focus to add additional temporary holiday demands.
During the holidays, while some will still maintain their morning rituals, which helps minimize anxiety, consider also taking a few minutes each evening to
- review your calendar and prepare for the next day or two,
- list those things that still need to get done in the near future so you don’t forget them,
- consider time in God’s word with an advent reading or other similar devotional, and
- prayer thanking God for what He enabled you to do during the day and giving him your cares for all your tomorrows.
Another way we can intentionally choose our focus is to consider limiting technology during the holiday season. We often don’t realize how much time we waste on our screens scrolling or mindlessly scanning on things that don’t add significant value, joy, or peace to our lives.
When cancer hit our family, we intentionally chose to do what we could to limit the negativity that entered our home and our minds. Part of that included discontinuing the daily newspaper and ridding our home of cable television. What we found is that it not only decreased the negativity in our home, but it also freed up our time for those things that really mattered. Consider spending time together decorating cookies, putting together a jigsaw puzzle, reading an advent devotion, singing carols, etc.
Scripture tells us to, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31). Another area where we can make a conscious decision to choose our focus is paying attention to ways we can remember and help those who are alone or going through a hard time during the holidays. Choose to let go of the commercial excess, and instead spend time encouraging someone else going through a hard time like those who are ill, going through treatment, newly widowed, or elderly and alone. Consider sending encouraging messages to those hurting and alone: notes, cards, goodies. If you know several going through a hard time, consider inviting multiple people over for a potluck meal where both the food and the encouragement is shared by all.
God’s word shows us how important it is to choose our focus, and to maintain a grateful heart if we want to experience His peace: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. THEN you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
May you experience more peace this Christmas season and all year through!
Because of Him, #PeacePrevails!