- Friday, December 8, 2023

Welcome to the season of more sweets, more drinks, more spending, more parties, and — for a lot of us — more stress. 

Perhaps like me, you’re craving a different kind of more. Instead of spending more, you’d like more relationship. Instead of more hustle and bustle, you’d like more meaning. Instead of scurrying to plan and bake and wrap, you’re longing for rest and more time to meditate on and worship the baby in the manger.

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Is there another way for Christians to do Christmas?

There is!

Too often we look to the world’s concept of self-care or even biblical self-care (getting rest and taking care of our bodies) while neglecting the yearning in our hearts. Good self-care includes soul care.

Celebrating Christ is about deliberate simplicity: deliberately making time for Jesus by simplifying. Here are 13 tips to bring more meaning and memories and Christ into the Christmas season this year.

1. Invite Jesus into the season

All too often, Jesus is the one guest we forget to invite into the season. There are 24 chapters in the book of Luke. Clean off the table and bring the family together around it every night to read one chapter from December 1 through Christmas Eve. And no worries if you start on December 15. It will be just as poignant (maybe more!) if you end as Epiphany starts.

Take turns praying about the issues on your heart or something prompted by the reading. If you’re an empty nester and have family coming home, this is the time to start praying for a peaceful holiday and for opportunities to speak into your children and grandchildren from a Christian worldview.

2. Sights and Sounds

Look for a Christmas concert or Advent by Candlelight program to attend, and invite a friend, a neighbor, a widow, or a single mom.

3. Worship

Plan your Christmas Eve gathering around a worship service. Meet early for a light meal, head to church, then come back for activities.

4. Long-lasting gifts

Buy children one small gift to open, and then contribute to their college fund. Ask relatives to do the same. This saves everyone time shopping and wrapping and will be a huge blessing in the future!

5. Gift swaps

Instead of buying new gifts, plan a swap. Most of us go through our homes prior to our get-togethers. Instead of donating toys, clothes and shoes to donation centers that are already overwhelmed, invite your friends with same-aged children to swap toys and clothes. My daughters and daughter-in-law love doing this. Everyone goes through their closets, and then we pick what we want. Some of my favorite clothes have come from these swaps. You can do this with friends too!

6. Make Christmas last into the New Year

Invite the your family and your friends to go through a book of the Bible together in the new year. As the host, not only will you be practicing hospitality, but it will be the motivation to go through the clutter in your house. Decide if it will just be coffee, brunch or a meal and if you will provide it every time, or if you’ll rotate. The memories will be far better than any gift, and studying the Bible and praying together will bond you in ways nothing else could.

7. Write an annual letter with encouragement

Take the time to write a letter to the young adults in the family. Choose a Bible passage for them, and resolve to pray for them. Tell them why you chose the passage and how you will be praying.

8. Games over gifts

Instead of gifting the adults in your family, agree to play games for small amounts of money. The loser contributes $5 to the fund that at the end of the day goes to a designated charity.

9. Simplify meals and treats

Keep the menu simple and healthy. If you want to make fussy heirloom cookies, wait to do it when you’re all together as a family so you have help and you can share.

10. Live out James 1:27

Remember the widows, widowers and orphans. We all know some. See if they would like a ride to an evening worship service. Take them to coffee, and listen to their memories from years ago.

11. Enjoy God’s creation

Plan an activity to get everyone moving. Go for a walk together, ice skate, take a hike, or go sledding. Often it’s during these activities that you are able to talk about other things going on in your life.

12. Get crafting

Have supplies on hand for everyone to make cards (stamps, paper, Bible verses). At the end of the day, everyone goes home with the cards they will use to greet and thank each other throughout the year.

13. Reflect

When it’s all over, evaluate what you loved, and use these same tips to keep close to Jesus in the new year!

Amber Albee Swenson is an author, blogger, and podcaster for the media ministry Time of Grace. Her podcast “Little Things” helps women look at little, everyday issues from a biblical perspective with the goal of knowing and loving God more.”Soul Care: Nurturing Your Spiritual Wellness,” her latest book, helps Christians make small changes to shift from being self-centered to being Christ-centered. For more information on her books and ministry, go to timeofgrace.org or amberalbeeswenson.org.

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