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5 ways to lead your family through the Christmas chaos
Meditating on the wonder of the Advent of Jesus is just as important as meeting with family and friends. As you filter your priorities through a schedule, plan both for socialization and solitude.
As a child, December 25th was the best day of my year every year. And December 26th was always the worst because I had to wait another 364 more days until Christmas came around once again. Along with the good things about Christmas, faith, family, and friends, there is also a frenetic pace. Here are five things I have learned that I hope will help you make the most of this season.
1. Have priorities
I have never once since I was 16 years old thought to myself in the month of December, “I’m really bored and there isn’t anything to do.” Instead, there are too many options and choices flying at me. And it’s very easy to lose my bearings. Busyness and productivity are two very different things. As a dad, establishing clear priorities with your family is the starting point to making the most of Christmas. Families should ask themselves these questions: 1) How can we worship Jesus best this season? 2) Whom can we encourage and serve? 3) What are the things we most enjoy doing together as a family? 4) Where and with whom should we be on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?
2. Make a plan
Priorities will mean very little if they aren’t supported by a good plan. Your best friend for aligning your priorities with real life experience during December is a calendar, a calendar that includes the activities of all family members’ schedules. It’s important to remember that things you say “yes” to reflect your priorities every bit as much as the opportunities you decline. And in my experience, saying “no” during the Christmas season is a way to make the most of it as much as anything else.
3. Balance relationship and reflection
It took me far too long to realize that I was an introvert and my wife, Kara, was an extrovert. And this had everything to do with how we viewed the Christmas season. While we both deeply enjoy spending time with immediate and extended family and close friends, Kara is energized by social events where she meets new people or develops deeper relationship with acquaintances; I am exhausted by them. I am replenished by reading a great book by the fireplace with the family around me while she is ready to go to another party. The beauty of Christmas is that when it comes to relationship and reflection, it is a “both/and” season rather than an “either/or” holiday.
4. Make room for margin
Planning for hours that are unplanned and budgeting for dollars that are unbudgeted is critical for those spontaneous opportunities God provides as some of his best gifts during Christmas.
Several years ago we had such an experience. We were in the middle of an unplanned afternoon as we waited for family to arrive to celebrate Christmas later in the evening. Jillian, our youngest of four daughters and a pre-teen at the time, found a grand opening invitation to a new Japanese/Korean restaurant that specialized in karaoke and half-price sushi between 3 and 5 p.m. in our neighborhood. We had recently received a monetary Christmas gift from some generous church members that we had designated as undesignated fun money. We were the only customers in the place that afternoon and had the time of our lives. The restaurant didn’t last a month yet its memory lives today as one of our best Christmas experiences of all time.
5. Temper your expectations
I’ve never appreciated that those who speak the Queen’s English use the word “holiday” the same way I use the word “vacation,” because from my perspective, a holiday is very different than a vacation.
A holiday, such as Christmas, requires hard work: there is food to prepare, extended family to host and entertain, presents to buy and wrap, a house to clean and decorations to take out of the garage to set up then take down and put back away. Christmas Eve ends late and Christmas Day begins for those with children at o-dark-thirty. Sleep deprivation is as much a part of Christmas as are stockings and trees.
A vacation, on the other hand, requires a pulse, a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. Vacation happens in a place you can mess up for someone else to make a living cleaning up. Nights end early, and mornings begin late.
You see the difference between a holiday and a vacation? If you expect Christmas to be a vacation instead of a holiday, you will only add frustration to your fatigue. Remember the Griswolds?
Don’t stress . . . and remember Jesus
Year to year, it’s easy to forget all that goes into the Christmas season until it’s upon you again. Don’t get stressed. Instead, prioritize, plan, get some downtime, sock some money away, and remember Christmastime isn’t always a vacation. Above all, remember Jesus.