Part one in our series, "How to Make Home for the Holidays Happier"
The Christmas season isn't supposed to be disappointing. But it often is! Around every corner are sights of nativity scenes, Christmas trees, Santa's reindeers and the smells of cinnamon and pine cones. Christmas is near. But so are family gatherings, parties and presents. And these are all set-ups for disappointments.
We have all learned over the years that the holiday season can be a mix of delight and disappointment. But we enter the season with hopes that this year will be different. We hope that this year our children will be pleased with their presents, that our budget can stretch to pay for the gifts, and extended family will be joyful and get along.
But it doesn't always happen that way. And then we are left disappointed, sad, and often frustrated and hurt.
We would like to suggest entering the Christmas season holding onto four principles with the hope they might set the stage for a happier holiday. These principles start with a shift in your own heart (yes, we all hold the false belief that if we can change everyone else, our Christmas will be better, but it usually doesn't work that way).
When we change our own expectations, understand what really brings our hearts joy and what Christmas really means to us, then we can wake up each morning with a joyful, grateful, happy attitude and mood that places us right into the center of the Christmas spirit.
Four ways to prepare for a happier Christmas:
1. What does Christmas mean to you? How can you create the Christmas spirit around you? This is the time of year we remember and celebrate the birth of Christ and all that it means to us as Christians. And we do it with an attitude of overflowing joy, gratitude, love, and a heart desire to spread it around. Christmas is a season filled with community festivities, family get-togethers and friends celebrating. When we hold onto what Christmas really means to us, we will know what we are trying to create around us. Is Christmas the celebration of Christ's birth? Then how can you celebrate with a heart filled with such joy that is so infectious it spreads to everyone around you?
2. Change your expectations. Realize that the best Christmas is what you create with what you realistically have right where you are. If you don't have the finances this year to go all out, stare that reality straight in the eyes! Then grieve. Grieve that you don't have the money to spend on gifts, or that your children won't be at your house for Christmas, or you will need to work over the holidays. Grieve that maybe your past Christmases have been disappointing. Then pull yourself up and look at what you do have, and make the best of it. Grieve what you don't have so you can enjoy what you do.
Live in the reality of what you have and what your situation is. Often we are able to get creative when we step out of disappointments and into possibilities. If your kids or relatives can't visit this year (or you visit them), grieve it; then be creative about how you can connect. If you are far from family, hold the sadness of being alone in one hand while reaching for sweet connections with friends with the other. You may not be able to change your situation, but you can change your attitude. This is this year's Christmas! Make the best of your situation. (this needs no further explanation, just courage to live it out!)
3. Keep things simple. Think through what really makes Christmas meaningful to you. No, not what in your dreams you wish Christmas could be, but the things that really do put you in the holiday spirit. Put the extras aside. Keep the holiday season simple. If having friends and family over is meaningful, then instead of cooking all the food, perhaps make it potluck, or gather over dessert instead of a large dinner. Keep your house filled with the smells, sounds and sights that reflect your heartfelt thanks to God for His gift of love.
4. Alternately, go all out! Find the things that give you the greatest pleasure, and go all out on them. It will make you feel festive. Maybe it is hot chocolate, cinnamon rolls and Christmas carols. So, drink hot chocolate every day, sample cinnamon rolls at every bakery in town, and sing through your favorite carols every night.
I decided to put white twinkle lights on every bookshelf, fireplace and cabinet in my house. They light up the night, creating an atmosphere of good cheer. I also took out five candles soaked with the smell of cinnamon and lit them every day to fill the air with "Christmas." That was after I lowered my self-imposed expectations to put up every decoration I own. I grieved the disappointment that I did not put up my huge trees, wreathes or outdoor lights. I just did not have the time. I kept things simple. But I kept two traditions that bring me great joy. What simple things put you in the center of the holiday spirit?
We wish you a merry Christmas! We hope your heart and home will be filled with great joy as you celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who came to give us an example of how to live a good life, to show how we can be the best version of ourselves, and how to find the courage to do it.
Jesus came to encourage us to live with integrity. And best of all, his sacrificed life gave to us the gift of eternal life. Wow! This is worth celebrating… in the way the angels did as they sang; in the manner the shepherds did when the angels announced the birth of Christ to them; and as the wise men did when they knelt before the baby with their gifts.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed." Luke 4:18 New Heart English Bible Translation
Christ is worth celebrating. May the celebration of Christmas fill your heart and overflow.
Read more on our series, How to Make Home for the Holidays Happier. We will share more on how you and your spouse (as well as extended family) can get along better during the holidays.
Part 2: When Our Christmas Traditions Clash
Part 3: When Memories of Christmas Hurt