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He sees many things, but does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not hear.Isaiah 42:20 ESV
Christmas: a joyous time of year with all the fun, food, and traditions. It is said to be the most wonderful time of the year! However, let's be real for a moment and talk about the side some of us might not want to admit. Christmas can be such a burden. The reason? We do Christmas unintentionally.
The definition of intentional is to do something on purpose. How many years has Christmas come and gone unintentionally for you? I know it has for me. A day - a whole season - to remember our Savior’s birth then to be carried away by the wind because of our unintentionality. Instead, we become blind and deaf just like the Israelites in the scriptures from Isaiah because we focus on what the world says Christmas is. We get stuck going through the motions. Add in the stress of Christmas and the mindset quickly becomes “just make it through”.
The demands and pressures “needed” to celebrate become our burden to carry, not the joy of our heart. After all, expectations and tasks double or even triple during Christmas between planning out who is going to get what for gifts, what food needs to be prepared for which event, and how to balance all the Christmas parties at work and schools. Then the little lies creep in that we need to put a Pinterest bow on everything because we want to be approved by those around us. Is it the new year yet?
As a child the Christmas season is the most magical, wonderful time of the year. I remember not only how fun it was, but also how everyone seemed to be more kind and loving to others. As I grew older I still held on to my love of that “Christmas spirit” if you will. However, anger, bitterness, and almost hatred began to creep into my heart over time. The stress of buying the perfect gift for everyone, the burden on the budget, and falling short in pleasing everyone started to become too much. How did Christmas become this? I became less excited to celebrate the most amazing, life changing event in history- the event that shifted everything and made a way to life and hope.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”Isaiah 42:9
“How do I get back, Lord?” I would cry out to Him. It seemed cliche to ask how to get back to the true meaning of Christmas, but that is what my heart was longing for. I began to fully see how far I strayed from the joy of Jesus’ birth and the inspiring hope that comes with it.
As I fought and wrestled with the tension of Christmas this year I sat still long enough to hear the Lord whispering into my ear, drawing me back to His truth. He led me to Isaiah 42 & 43. This is what He whispered to my heart: “It's never, ever too late with our God”. He still has something new and wonderful for me (and you as well!) each year at Christmas.
It does, however, require us to slow down enough to listen carefully to Him and to do things on purpose (intentionally). If you're reading this, chances are you too have a desire to get back to the true meaning of Christmas - to experience the true magic of Christmas. From here we are able to not only enjoy the most wonderful time of the year, but also spill over onto others, truly spreading joy and good cheer! I believe this is God's heart for Christmas that he wants all of us to have.
“Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing. Now it will spring forth, will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”Isaiah 43:19 AMP
Our God is a good Father. He wants to do something new in this Christmas season for each of us. It is our job to tune our ears and take intentional steps. Christmas is intended to bring hope and joy to our lives, even in the middle of the hustle and bustle. For me this year, I made it a priority to attend an Advent Retreat on December 1st. It's worth the sacrifice of my time and investment of my money to focus myself back on to the true miracle and redemption story of Christmas and what it means for me. At the end of this blog post is the beginning of a list of ideas to help you take your first intentional step.
The beautiful thing about our gracious, loving God is that once we take the first step to be intentional, He is right there to meet us and take us further in showing us what we have all been missing. He fills us with more joy and happiness than a five-year-old staring at the Christmas tree on Christmas morning at 5:00am after sneaking out of their room.
Through our choice to make Christmas intentional, we will be able to conquer the to do lists, parties, and busyness. Those things are not inherently bad; however, God did not intend them to be done out of obligation and bitterness. As moms, we also have the grand opportunity to teach our children the true joy of Christmas by living it out - one intentional step at a time.
Join me in being intentional this Christmas season and not letting our enemy steal away the joy, love, and happiness of Christmas with busyness, distractions, and mindlessness. Let's do Christmas on purpose because if you do, you can experience joy in the middle of the hustle. God desires to do something new. Will you see it?
Ideas for how to take that first step and be intentional this Christmas season:
- Read an advent scripture each day, meditate on it and journal about it. One example at Focus on the Family can be found here:
- Choose an advent book to read. It's okay if you don't start on day 1, just start! (Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas" by Ann Voskamp is a great one, but there are plenty of others).
- Sit and listen. Dedicate time to spend with Jesus every day despite the to do lists.
WITH YOUR KIDS
- Begin a tradition of doing the kindness elves with your children. Here are links to a couple I found:
- Serve with your kids: ring the bell for the salvation army, make food for a family in need, participate in a food drive, ect.
- Read the Christmas story with them and talk about it as a family. Have your children draw pictures after the reading and explain them.
WITH YOUR FAMILY
- Ann Voskamp also has a family version of "Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas"
- Bake cookies together and deliver them to others in your community and church. Talk about how Jesus was born and given to us as a free gift.
- Find a live Nativity to go to as a family. You can Google “Live Nativity Near Me” and see if there are any near you!
WITH YOUR FRIENDS
- Read "Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas" by Ann Voskamp with a group of friends.
WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS AND/OR STRANGERS
- Deliver handwritten Christmas cards to your neighbors.
- Buy coffee for the person behind you and say a prayer for them as you do!
- Serve at a food shelter or soup kitchen in your community.
Katelyn lives in Minnesota with her beloved husband and sons. She is passionate about imperfectly growing in the grace of God and communicating that message to the world. You can connect with her on Instagram @km.sullivan. Katelyn finds consistency in parenting the most challenging aspect of motherhood. Yet finds the most happiness from seeing the joy my child finds in the mundane.