I’m a lover of the whole holiday kit-n-caboodle. I love the change in season, festive gatherings and decorations, and lingering with friends and family. I’m a farm-fresh, turkey-loving, Thanksgiving fanatic. Then I turn my attention to the Advent season, all the tangible reminders of Immanuel having come, God with us, born in flesh to redeem us.
That said, even for a holiday fan, these next couple months can be stressful or perhaps painful. So I thought it might be helpful to bring you five bits of encouragement for the season. First things first.
1. It’s Not Your Responsibility To Fix Your Relatives
I know what you’re thinking… but I know exactly what’s wrong with them and I have so many good ideas! It’s probably best to keep those ideas wrapped up in your mind like a little Christmas present—that you actually never give to anyone. Think of how much less stress you’ll have if you don’t task yourself with having to change all your loved ones. Trust me. This is very freeing news.
A day may come when you have to confront a loved one, or deal with a perpetually difficult problem. And by all means, set aside intentional time to pray for those difficult situations ahead of time. But the holiday season typically isn’t the time to try to solve decades-old issues. Throw off the responsibility of having to fix everyone and pick up a piece of pumpkin pie instead. You’ll thank me for this one.
2. Focus on Jesus Instead of the Christmas Ideal
Never is it easier for us to focus squarely on ourselves than during the holidays. Many reasons for this exist, not the least of which is what I call the Christmas Ideal. We’ve romanticized the holidays to a level we can’t even relate to. When’s the last time you roasted chestnuts on an open fire or decked your halls with boughs of holly? My point is that the goal often becomes having this romantic and magical experience when Jesus’ command to us has never changed: love others as He’s loved us.
This will take the focus off of whether or not you’re having the most wonderful time of the year. You’ll sense the freedom and joy that comes with fulfilling the command of Christ as you take the focus off yourself and look to the needs of others. There’s no telling what blessings may come as a result, ones better than dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh. It really is true that only Jesus can surpass the image of whatever you envision to be a perfect Christmas.Only Jesus can surpass the image of whatever you envision to be a perfect Christmas.Click To Tweet
3. Ask the Holy Spirit to Lead You to the One
I really enjoy our extended family get-togethers, and with every passing year those gatherings grow larger. The more the merrier may be true, but the more the deeper, not so much. What I’ve noticed about our family’s most recent gatherings is that there’s no way I can have a meaningful conversation with each person. So I ask the Holy Spirit to show me who might need intentional time. Who needs to be heard, encouraged or prayed for.
Ask good questions at your family gatherings. Show your care for those you’re getting to see. When you sense a need, move in with your Christmas blend coffee and make a meaningful connection.
4. Focus on What’s Right This Year
Getting back to the Christmas Ideal. No Christmas will ever totally measure up. Someone or something will always be missing. Your favorite aunt might not be there this year with her famous sweet potato casserole—which is kind of why she’s your favorite. Or maybe it’s not your family’s year to have your newly married child and his or her spouse with you. Perhaps you’re facing the holidays as a single person again. But focus on what is right. Be intentional to thank God for who is there this year, for all that is blessed and good and well. For His Son Jesus. Thankfulness during the holiday season will be a salve for whatever disappointments are present.Thankfulness during the holiday season will be a salve for whatever disappointments are present.Click To Tweet
5. Give Yourself The Gift of Protected Space
Not every family is healthy or life-giving. If you find yourself having to be at a holiday gathering that’s particularly painful or wounding to your soul, stay at a different location. Book a hotel room instead of spending the night smack in the middle of what might set you back until Easter. If you can’t afford a hotel, look for an inexpensive Airbnb or stay with a friend. A small safe place is better than a spacious difficult one. If you want to be a patient and loving friend or family member you’ll need time and space for the Lord to fill you up. Set doable time limits for yourself.
I’m so thankful for each of you as we go into this special time of year. My prayer is that you’ll know the love of Jesus in a deeper way this season. I pray you’ll be so filled up with Him that you’ll have an abundance to pour out on the family members you really, really like, and the ones you simply want to fix. Which, remember, isn’t your job anymore… so you’re free to simply love them.