Posted by Sarah Anderson
I already consider this Christmas a win for our family. Our boys were able to visit Santa, and sit on his lap, shedding exactly zero tears. Total success. I could stand back and simply observe as my boys so effortlessly experienced the wonder of the season. Not just with Santa, but in other ways too.
And amid the relief, it hit me. You don’t have to teach a child wonder. It’s hardwired into them. Just watch their faces—when they see the ocean, visit a zoo, take a bubble bath and eat dessert. Wonder is easy. But especially this time of year. December is ripe with opportunity to be caught up and wrapped up in the magic of Christmas.
It’s one of the reasons I love Christmas so much. Because I am learning that as much as I feel like I have to do—with the
and general insanity of it all--
the kids don’t really need it.
As parents we feel agonizing pressure thinking if we dropped even just one ball, Christmas might as well be cancelled. But it wasn’t always that way. We were kids once too, and there was a time when wonder came as easily and naturally to us as it does for our kids.
I remember the Christmas I saw “Santa’s” footprint in the fireplace of my childhood home. I remember the eager anticipation each Christmas Eve and the attempt to sleep sabotaged by giddy excitement. I remember the magic conjured up by a living nativity, a cup of hot chocolate, a warm oven and a crackling fireplace.
And then I grew up.
It makes me question if we are going about it all wrong. What if in our efforts to make Christmas special, unique and over the top for our kids, we are missing the point?
Because the truth is I don’t think our kids need to be taught to experience the wonder of this time of year. They get it. They aren’t looking at us to learn wonder. But I think they are looking at us to help them hang onto it.
They’re watching, wondering if one day they’ll wake up having lost the sentiment of the season— like maybe they’ve seen us do.
Our kids may not need another thing to do this season to prime their hearts for the wonder of Christmas. But we do. Our kids need to be able to look to us to see that the magic of Christmas isn’t something that leaks with age. That with every year that passes, it’s possible to not only keep it, but to provoke it until it’s so abundant, it quiets us and leaves us satisfied in awe.
Maybe the conflict in Christmas isn’t whether we can get everything done, but whether we can sustain the magic, the wow-inducing marvel a lowly baby in Bethlehem created. My experience tells me, it isn’t easy to do. My heart tells me, we ought to fight hard to do it.
In her book Help, Thanks, Wow, Anne Lamott writes, “Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be. Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.”
Unto us, so much is given.
Or as the prophet Isaiah said it first, Unto us, a child is born. A son is given.
Both Ann and Isaiah are right. And this time of year ought to be the time, more than any other, when the miracle of what’s been given catches us by such surprise our kids can’t help but watch and crave it themselves.
Find some time this Christmas to remember, to revel in, to soak in the mystery and majesty that the God who hung the stars, the God who pitched the sky, the God who holds the oceans, the God who counts the sand, entered the world He made, in hopes we might catch a glimpse of the mighty love He has for us.
That is true wonder. Wonder that we can’t afford to outgrow and thank goodness, don’t ever have to.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries.
7 WAYS TO GET TO CHRISTMAS WITHOUT A TOTAL MELTDOWN
Posted by Carey Nieuwhof
Well, at least I’m sure it does at some point over Christmas.
When I see people posting pictures of how wonderful setting up the tree is and how magical the decorating was (okay, okay, I’ve done this…I’m guilty), it reminds me how often that process has not been an Instagrammable moment for me over the years.
I would routinely be WAY overambitious in thinking I could accomplish both the outdoor decorating and putting up the tree in about 35 minutes flat, only to be incredibly frustrated when the process took far longer than the twelve days of Christmas themselves.
You know, the realization that the lights that worked last year when you put them away, mysteriously broke in July and didn’t bother to tell anyone? Or the tree topper that toppled you over the chair you were standing on? That’s what I’m talking about.
It was in those moments that my Christmas spirit would evaporate.
Got moments like that in your family?
We all know that Christmas creates incredible pressure, and your family ends up caving under the weigh of expectation.
How do you fix that?
I’m learning, year by year, what I need to do to make sure the prep for Christmas doesn’t kill Christmas.
Here’s are some holiday tips that can make your holiday more peaceful all around.
1 – CREATE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
If the secret to happiness is low expectations, then set realistic expectations for the holidays.
Take your expectations and cut them in half. You might find some joy in the process.
2 – SET A REASONABLE PACE
When I was in school, my last exam would finish on December 23rd. I’d have 24 hours to get everything ready. I’d run into Christmas exhausted.
Now, theoretically, I could start preparing in July. But I still tend to leave it too late.
A sustainable pace creates a sustainable peace. And who doesn’t need that?
3 – EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
I don’t like surprises, but Christmas is full of them.
If you expect surprise guests, surprise commitments, surprise interruptions and surprise expenses, you won’t be as a surprised. And you’ll be much more gracious.
4 – AGREE ON A BUDGET
Peace on earth is one thing. Peace in January is another.
If you agree on a budget for everything and everyone ahead of time, you will significant reduce your stress before Christmas.
5 – SAY NO
You don’t have to go to every Christmas party or send cards to everyone you know.
When you say no to the less important things, you’re saying yes to what matters most.
6 – REST
Someone once said 70% of discipleship is a good night’s sleep. There’s some truth in that.
If you’re rattled, frazzled and angry, go to bed.
You are at your most kind when you’re at your most rested.
7 – PRIORITIZE TIME WITH GOD
Unfortunately, one of the great omissions of the Christmas season is peoples’ personal time with God. The very reason we’re doing all of this is to celebrate someone who loves you.
So love Him back. Start your day with God, and you’re far more likely to remember Him in all your moments.
When I following these seven guidelines, Christmas is so much better.
But it’s not just better for me, it’s significantly better for everyone else too.
And then you might have something to Instagram about.
About the Author:
Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Church and author of several books, including Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (with Reggie Joiner) and his latest book, "Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow." Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and parenting. He writes one of the most widely read church leadership blogs at www.CareyNieuwhof.com and hosts the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews top leaders each week.