I had a list of tasks in my mind, so I proceeded to accomplish them at my local bank. The friendly teller greeted me and went on with a good reminder
"Thanksgiving has gone by so now we need to get ready for Christmas. Are you ready?"
I noticed the unsettling feeling behind her reminder so I answered
"No but I decided that I am not going to be stressed about it this year."
My answer was not good enough for her.
"I focused so much on Thanksgiving and now I have no Christmas gifts at all!"
I left her, thinking that worry doesn't make preparations easier, it does make it strenuous and peace-less.
I have been reading the Bible for a little while and I can't find any encouragement to get stressed about such a joyous ocassion. I did find several references that God cares about my heart, so I try to focus on getting my inner-life ready for Christmas. Because I like to be super practical, here's what I'm going to be doing.
1. I will read the Christmas story - from the Bible. I start in Matthew, then I go to Luke, then, I go back to the prophets because they spoke about Jesus' birth way before it happened. When I read the Christmas story, it also helps me understand the lyrics of some of the Christmas hymns better. Also, I read the story to my children. I don't need a special book (I bet you have a bunch of Bibles in your home), just get the story from the most reliable source and enjoy it.
2. I will attend a Bible based Christmas activity - in our community, we have both a Live Nativity and a Walk to Bethlehem. Our family attends both because it is a nice way for us to see ourselves inside that true, timeless story. In case this is not available in your community, remember that you have Youtube.
3. I will sing Christmas Hymns - while a wish the kids and I could open the hymnal and sing away (one of my kids can't read yet), we are not there yet. What we do have is YouTube. I found some karaoke Christmas hymns that have all the verses and the melodies are pretty legit. One night we sat in the living room and we just sang and sang. I believe that the earlier the kids learn these melodies, the better. If they memorize the words is an even bigger win. I find that some of the lyrics are theologically sound as well as very relevant for a lifetime. For example,
"Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings"
- from Hark the Herald Angels Sing
If you are a "fun" parent, you may dig all the Scripture references to these verses OR you just hope they memorize the lyrics then get the full meaning later on in life. Either way, focus on teaching the songs that will make a difference in light of eternity.
4. I will attend a Christmas Concert - this year, we are so blessed that my husband is part of the symphony chorus and one of his songs is being debuted at one of our local universities. We will be attending two concerts plus our Christmas festivities at church. Singing Christmas music is fun but hearing others performing is even more fun. I pray the concerts make an impact in the kids' hearts.
When I was in graduate school many moons ago, I prayed that God would give me a new revelation of what Christmas mean each and every year. I still pray the same prayer each year. As I prepare my heart for Christmas, I will be looking for the answer to that prayer.
My friend, I hope you are inspired to focus on your inner-life instead of the long list of things you need to do before December 25th. We can't give what we don't have, so let's get our hearts ready for Jesus.