Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Holiday Prep that Matters Most

A few days before Thanksgiving Jon brought the mail in, stuck a card in my face and said "No pressure!" with a laugh. Yeah right! It was the first holiday photo card of the season, wishing us a very Merry Christmas with beautiful faces beaming. I was standing in the kitchen, surrounded by ingredients for our Thanksgiving prep and all of a sudden I felt behind!

For some reason, the holidays can do that to me. Even when I declare that I will not stress, I will not compare, I will not put unnecessary pressure on myself, it still just sort of happens. Sneaks in, really.

So Saturday morning I made an important decision. I would start by focusing on the holiday prep that matters most. Because if nothing else happens this holiday season, I want for me and my family to be spiritually prepared to celebrate with joy the real meaning of Christmas. I don't want the next four weeks to be centered on the mad scramble of trying to find the perfect gifts, attend every party, send out greeting cards, make beautiful treats, or put up holiday decorations (although, as an aside, I do think I'll take my pumpkin off the porch first thing tomorrow morning!).

While I really do enjoy the Christmas season, from the lights, music and decorations to the Christmas cards, gifts and parties, sometimes I feel a little stressed out by it all. And I realize it's usually my own fault for putting pressure on myself or not knowing how to say "no". Therefore, right now I am choosing to just be content with what I've done so far. And all I've done so far is plan our family devotions for the season.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. As a family, we celebrate this season by carving out a few minutes each evening for advent devotions. We typically light a candle, read Scripture related to the birth of Christ, sing a Christmas song, memorize a passage together, and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. The general format has been the same for years, but we usually change the content each year.

This year we're using an advent devotional written by a pastor we love and respect who is now the lead pastor at the church I grew up in. You can link to the pdf version here if you're looking for a good family devotional to use this year too. The first day is December 1, so you're not even behind yet! There are official advent guides that explain how to do a traditional advent wreath and have different colored candles that represent specific things, but we aren't that fancy. We just stick five candles in the middle of our table. There's one candle for each of the four weeks leading up to Christmas, so we light just one candle during our advent time each night of the first week, then two candles each night of the second week, and so on. On Christmas Day we light all five candles. (We let a different child blow out the candles each night because they're at an age where that sort of thing is still a really big deal! 😉)

And this year we're trying to memorize John 1:9-14, 16 together too. "The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fulness we have all received, grace upon grace."

We still have a two-year-old, so our advent devotions certainly don't look perfect or always flow smoothly! But our goal is that our children will remember that what matters most this holiday (and throughout the year), is for our lives to be centered on Christ and grounded in His Word. We want to bring Him glory by focusing on Him and the true meaning of Christmas, all the while praying that we are planting seeds in the hearts of our children that will take root and lead them to Truth.

Once this priority is set in place, it's amazing how much easier and more fun it is to decorate, bake and address those cards!

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