It’s that time of year again…the time of year that stresses your schedule, stretches your patience, and drains your finances. About now you might be tired of hearing the same old Christmas songs, and getting a headache from the jingling of the bell outside every grocery and discount store, and overloading on Christmas commercialism.
But, what if I could help you experience the Advent season with fresh eyes and a renewed heart and truly see it as the most wonderful time of the year?
Let me share with you what I’ve focused on the past few years to keep from experiencing Christmas burnout.
1. Keep a Quiet Heart
I’ll admit this is my aim all throughout the year, but I never recognize the need for it more than during the holiday season. While everyone is hustling and bustling around you, buying gifts, yelling at store clerks, cutting others off on the streets, showing a “me-first” attitude because they’re short on time, short on cash, and short on patience, determine to be different. Smile when others look stressed. Wait patiently when there’s a line, and let someone else in front of you as if you had nowhere to go. Don’t be so caught up in busy this season that you forget Who Christmas is ultimately for. Try making your gift to Jesus this year a calm, quiet heart – one that is so immersed in the realization of what this season of giving is all about that you are oblivious to every other stressed out person in the store, on the freeway, or in the office.
2. Focus on Doing, Rather Than Buying
For the past couple of years, my husband and I have had a lot less money that we could spend on others. So we’ve had to get creative about doing, rather than buying. And it reminded me of Christmases from my childhood. When I was a child, I didn’t have any money to buy gifts for my family for Christmas (we were too poor to receive a weekly “allowance” from our parents). So each Christmas I would make my mom a “coupon book” of the things I would do for her in order to bless her…things that kids wouldn’t ordinarily do for their parents. Some of the things included “Wash the dishes without being asked” and “Help you dust stuff with a smile not a frown.” Some of those coupons she has saved to this day because she didn’t want to part with them (lucky for me, as a kid!). But when I became a mom, coupon books from my own daughter (which included offers like “A bubble bath with all the drinks of water that you want”) became priceless. I didn’t want to “spend” those coupons either. I wanted to continue to read them, preserved in the little stapled-together booklet, as a reminder of the precious young heart that went into making them.
How can you give a piece of your heart to someone this Christmas? How can you sacrifice yourself so others can be served? Christmas is all about the sacrifice God made for us by sending His Son to walk among us, die on a cross for us, and rise again to save us from our sins. Make a list right now of what you can do for others that represents who you are, not what you have. Did one of your neighbors or co-workers lose a spouse this past year? What about bringing a freezable meal to them the week of Christmas? Is there someone in your workplace that everyone else seems to avoid? What about taking that person to lunch or baking something and bringing it to them with a note saying that they are appreciated. Is there a family member you haven’t seen in awhile? They may appreciate a visit or a phone call much more than a gift or card in the mail. Ask God to show you tangible ways that you can show your love to others this year by serving them.
3. Give as You Get
I remember dreading the coming holidays because of the stash of stuff that would be coming our way…knick knacks we didn’t need, more clothes in my already-stuffed closet, candy box after candy box when we were trying to eat healthy. And then I realized there’s no reason to keep holding onto – and hoarding – everything that comes our way. Our family decided to give something away for everything new that came our way. A new sweater for the holidays? Time to let go of another nice sweater in your closet that someone else will enjoy. A new appliance that you didn’t need? Give the new one to someone else who needs it and keep getting by with your own.
You can even get ahead of the giving game, and this week drop off at your local thrift store a couple bags of not only clothing and house wares that you don’t need but some of your nicer possessions too. Imagine the thrill of someone shopping for Christmas in that thrift store and seeing something that was treasured, even a favorite of yours for many years. Chances are it will become a favorite of someone else’s soon. Look around for how you can give up more (the closer to your heart it is, the better) or how you can pass on to others some of the nice things you receive that you don’t really need. (Forgive me if this is tacky, but re-gifting can sometimes bless someone else in ways you hadn’t imagined…especially if it’s something you really like but don’t necessarily need.)
4. See it Through the Eyes of a Child.
Do you remember how much you anticipated Christmas as a child? We couldn’t wait for the season to arrive so we could write up our wish lists, eat those goodies that are only in the house once a year, and unwrap presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Look around and observe children this holiday season. Revel in their joy and excitement. Cherish those cute things you overhear them saying. Better yet, be one who brings a smile to their face or brightens their eyes through what you say, wear, or offer.
5. Focus on the Gift.
As a child, Christmas meant presents—gifts to unwrap, new toys to play with. But as we grow older, we tend to think it’s just about giving to others. Yes, that’s the point. But don’t forget your gift…the One who was laid in a manger, grew to be a Savior, and died so He would never have to be separated from you. That wondrous love, wrapped up in the gift of Jesus, is something you could never earn or deserve. And it represents a standard to which we could never out give. So, yes, we focus on giving, rather than getting. But don’t ever forget the wondrous, priceless gift that you already received.