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So, you made it through Thanksgiving! You ate way too much turkey, and the people you love worked your last nerve. Black Friday happened on Thursday, and some people even put their Christmas tree up before Halloween.
The holidays are a stressful time for everyone—whether you are mentally ill or not. If you live with mental illness and wonder how you will stay stable during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, click here to read my tips about how to enjoy the holidays without losing your hard-won stability.
Even if you are not mentally ill, Christmas still wreaks havoc with your mental health. Christmas has become a commercial holiday centered around who can buy the best gift and who can post the best picture of said gift on social media.
I’ll admit it. I get caught up in all the holiday hoopla. I love buying gifts, and I love seeing the smiles on the faces of my loved ones as they open the gifts I so painstakingly selected. And I do like the attention I garner because I post pictures of my beautiful, smiling daughter on Facebook.
But if you put your focus solely on material things, you miss the whole point of Christmas. Christmas was never meant to be a celebration of the gifts we give others. Christmas was always meant to be a celebration of the gift God gave us through the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.
So, how can we cut through the proverbial wrapping paper and tape and bring our focus back on the true meaning of Christmas?
Here are five ways to keep the Christ in Christmas:
1. Downsize your holiday gift giving.
When you have young children, Christmas can easily become a yearly contest to see how you can outdo yourself. The number and expense of gifts climbs every year.
There is a trend now of parents following the gift-giving rule: something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. That is a great framework for holiday gift giving, but we have taken it a step further in my household.
My daughter, Ava, gets three gifts from Santa Claus. I believe if three gifts were good enough at the birth of Jesus Christ, then it is good enough for Ava.The three gifts can be anything she wants, within reason. In our household, Santa Claus is on a budget.
Let’s try a different strategy this Christmas. Let our gifts be the things money can’t buy. Our time. Unconditional love. A listening ear. A word of encouragement. A simple act of kindness.
I am not saying we ban traditional gift-giving. I love giving and receiving gifts as much as the next girl. I am just saying that instead of measuring our worth by the number of presents under our tree, we should measure our worth by the number of lives we have touched.
2. Give to those who are truly in need.
As you are out and about overspending on elaborate gifts and even more elaborate Christmas celebrations, stop for a minute and consider how the other half lives. Not everyone has unlimited funds to spend on Christmas gifts and parties.
Many families live paycheck to paycheck and don’t know where their next meal will come from—much less keeping up with the Joneses with gift giving.
I challenge you to take a portion of your Christmas budget and donate it to families who are in need. Our family provides monthly financial support a young Haitian girl. This year our Christmas gift to her is a food box that will feed her family for a month.
If you are the family that is strapped for cash, you can still give back through acts of service like volunteering at a soup kitchen, volunteering at a homeless shelter or participating in a food drive to help families in need.
3. Focus on family-centered traditions.
Instead of focusing on the things money can buy, focus on your family’s tried-and-true traditions.
I love holiday traditions, particularly Christmas ones. Maintaining old family traditions and creating new Christmas traditions with my daughter is a big priority for me.
I am one of those crazy Elf on the Shelf moms who comes up with outrageous daily shenanigans for my elf. Oops, I mean Ava’s elf. I must admit, it is my favorite tradition and the one time of the year I feel crafty and accomplished.
Every year my family watches the classic Christmas cartoons including my favorite, The Year Without Santa Claus, with Heat Miser and Cold Miser. And yes, I am singing their song in my head while I type this. You can thank me later for putting their song in your head too.
4. Have a Charlie Brown Christmas.
Unless you were raised under a rock, you have probably seen at least part of the iconic holiday cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The 1965 animated television special followed Charlie Brown and his friends as they navigated the Christmas season.
Charlie Brown was disillusioned and depressed because of the commercialization of Christmas. His friends ridiculed him because of the pathetic tree he chose for the Christmas pageant.
Charlie Brown wonders aloud if anyone knows the real meaning of Christmas. His question leads to Linus’s mic drop moment when he recites Luke 2:8-14.
When Charlie Brown’s friends rescue his mediocre Christmas tree and make it something beautiful, the real spirit of Christmas is honored.
5. Find small ways to make the birth of Jesus Christ the centerpiece of your holiday festivities.
Let’s be real. During the holidays, it is hard to find quality time to spend in prayer and studying God’s word. But unless you put the birth of Jesus Christ at the center of your holiday festivities, it is easy to forget what the real celebration is all about.
I’ll be honest with you. I fall short on this every year. There is never enough time to fit everything in.
Instead of lying to myself and saying this will be the year that my family will spend a certain amount of time studying the birth of Jesus Christ, I will find small ways to acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas.
What does that look like practically? The Gospel of Luke has 24 chapters. This year my family will read one chapter a day during the month of December.
Emma the Elf will repeat her yearly tradition of writing Ava a letter on Christmas Eve to remind her of the first and best Christmas present ever.
When Linus has his mic drop moment on A Charlie Brown Christmas, we will take a moment to discuss the significance of his words.
As you navigate the Christmas season, keep your eyes on the real cause for celebration: the birth of Jesus Christ. Remember that His death and resurrection gave us the one gift money can’t buy: eternal life.
Let me be clear, I love Christmas celebrations as much as the next girl. I love gifts, holiday parties, great food and time spent with family and friends.
Those are all good things. But too much of anything that takes the focus off Jesus Christ misses the mark about what Christmas is really about.
As you revel in the fun, pause for a moment to relive Linus’ mic drop moment and remind yourself that as corny as it sounds, Jesus really is the reason for the season.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’” (Luke 2:8-14 KNV).
What does your family do to keep the Christ in Christmas? Share your family traditions in the comments.