Do you ever feel like the Christmas season is a blur? There’s so much to do and to buy, so many people to see, and so many places to be. I often find myself at Christmas Eve service hearing about the Prince of Peace, wondering how it’s already December 24—and how long the service will take because I still have a few last-minute things to do. I have a hunch that I’m not the only one. If peaceful Christmas has ever sounded like an oxymoron to you, I want to encourage you that it is possible, but it will take work and time to accomplish. It means scheduling things ahead of time, determining budgets and gifts early in the season, and keeping strict boundaries to protect your time and sanity. This late in the season, that can be really difficult, but there are still ways you can bring more peace to the season. I offer these five ways to bring more peace to your Christmas this year.
1. Make space for quiet prayer and reflection.
In a season of lights, sounds, people, and busyness, we need an extra dose of quiet and stillness—and at the same time it can feel extra challenging to make this space for ourselves. If there is one thing you do for yourself this season, though, let it be this. Start with five minutes and simply be still and quiet. Want something a little more guided? Read 1-5 verses of Scripture (keep it very short), and reflect on the passage for five minutes in silence. Or focus on your breathing, in and out, working to take slower, deeper breaths over time. Or simply think of something you need: peace, patience, joy, support, and focus on this one word as a prayer to God for five quiet, still moments. Or reflect on how you feel—really feel, not how you think you should feel or how you want to feel—and sit with that emotion, giving it to God. Still need help? Join us for our Christmas Contemplative Prayer Practice for a lovely evening.
2. Savor the small things.
The season is filled with big and bold and bright, and yet our favorite memories are often the smallest things: the smell of French toast on Christmas morning, listening to Christmas music while decorating the tree, staying up late to watch a favorite movie, a cup of hot cocoa with a friend. Practice mindfulness this season by intentionally savoring the small things. Soak up the moment with all your senses and thank God for the moment. This simple practice can keep you grounded and joyful rather than rushing from event to event.
3. Tend to your psychological health.
Because others can’t see the injuries and hurts we’re experiencing mentally and emotionally, we often don’t take the time to care for them the way we should, especially when we’re busy. In this video, Guy Winch, a psychologist, makes the case for doing regular emotional hygiene—just like we brush our teeth every day—and he clearly explains what that can look like.
4. Say “no” to extras.
I know it feels like you have to do everything, but I want to tell you a secret: you really don’t. Give yourself permission to say “no” to something so that you can more fully enjoy the season. It seems like there are Christmas parties for everything this time of year. They're meant to make you feel appreciated, but they often end up making you feel overwhelmed with obligations. There are too many things you can’t say “no” to this season (even if you want to!) so say “no” to any extras you can. You have permission to spend an evening at home or with people you want to be with. Truly.
5. Check your expectations.
It’s easy to let our expectations get a bit out of hand during this season. And it’s with good intentions! We want to believe the holiday season will bring out the best in people, that special events will become treasured memories, and that everyone we buy presents for will be blown away by our gift. We want to love our people well in this season, and we want to feel known and loved as well. Here’s the thing, though, the holidays don’t always bring out the best in people, and sometimes those special holiday events fall flat, and sometimes our well-thought-out gifts miss the mark. It happens! So before you end up miserably disappointed, examine your expectations. Let’s expect people to be the same as they always are. Let’s expect that some events will succeed and others will flop—and it will probably be the ones we’re not expecting. Let's expect that some things simply won’t go as planned. Let yourself off the hook and expect normal life to happen. Even if things don’t go as well as you hope, they can still be lovely and meaningful and fun. After all, a funny flop could become a treasured memory that can elicit giggles for years to come.
Above all else, I hope that you remember what this season is all about: You are loved so deeply, so fully, that God sent Jesus to be with you here on earth. God came near out of love, and God remains near to us through it all—even the busy, stressful Christmas season.
Amy Jackson is the founder and director of The Perch.