My first pregnancy I was convinced I would go into labor prematurely. With my son's due date set for late December, I was worried that I wouldn't get to buy gifts, send cards, or have time to make homemade cranberry/raspberry preserves. Of course, looking back over a decade later, I see how superficial my fears were. I wasn't overly concerned for the health of my child, but for the health of my Christmas traditions. Needless to say, twelve years ago, I learned an important lesson about celebrating Christmas. Because I was so sure that the birth of my child would thwart my holiday plans, I worked to have everything prepared for Christmas (except the tree and our nativity sets) by the beginning of September. I wasn't even out of my second trimester when my Christmas gifts were all purchased, wrapped, and put away. Cranberries had already been prepared and stored for Christmas dinner, and I made the choice to not send cards that year, since I would be sending birth announcements soon enough.
Everything was done. Everything except the long weeks and months till the birth of my perfectly healthy, full-term baby boy.
Here's what I learned that Christmas:
I learned that celebrating Jesus' birthday, without all the Hustle and Bustle, is the very best kind of Christmas.
And there beside the fire, without a reason to run from store to store, I learned to be still, to be quiet and to abide in the midst of advent. It's a lost art form, this quiet sort of Christmas - but I sense it is the key, if we truly want to unlock our hearts to Christ at Christmas.
Of course, it's been 12 years now, and I have three boys running all around with Christmas lists and Christmas parties, and sugar highs from Christmas cookies... And so I know that this quieting sort of Christmas has to be intentional - like it was that first year. Getting everything out of the way so that you can sit and advent. I know that advent is a noun - it is a season - but it is also a verb that requires both doing and ceasing from doing. It is a still sort of verb that says, "I am preparing my heart for You, Lord."
Here's what I'm doing to prepare for a Quiet Christmas this year:
1) I'm quieting my heart - Darlene Schacht just created this delightful little book called Quieting Your Heart for the Holidays. This 30 Day Prayer Journal is just the sort of intentional abiding I need. It is brand spanking new, and I may have been the first to order it online! I hope that you will order one too.
2) I'm keeping my gift giving simple this season - and making it even simpler by buying online and early! This is especially important if you are wanting to buy Star Wars Lego sets (which I do.) Word on the street (or at least on those toy aisles) is that Lego won't be able to meet the demand this season. So shop early and avoid the stress. My goal is to have all of my shopping done by the end of November.
Getting it all done early shouldn't be too difficult either, because we're pulling way back on purchases. Our family is going to try this little rhyme to guide our gift giving. "Something you want, something you need, something you wear, something you read..." And then we are going to let each of our children write a Christmas letter to one of our sponsored kids through Compassion International, and send a special gift to their family. That's on the to-do list for this week! (6 weeks before Christmas!)
3) Christmas Cards won't be extravagant either, and I'm ordering them early as well! I'm keeping the list of cards short this year so that I am not overwhelmed by the work or the cost. I'll send out an electronic greeting to the whole gang in December. To everything there is a season, and this is the season is for a quiet unhurried heart!
4) I'm embracing the paper plate this holiday! Last year we had out of town guest arrive on Christmas Eve, which coincided perfectly with the completion of our Holiday Kitchen Remodel! I spent the day with our friends at the local zoo, while my husband installed the sink! After a long day we all came home to my brand new kitchen! While my husband did an exceptional job cleaning off my new green countertops, every plate and serving dish I owned was covered in dust! So I made panini's - easy-peasy - and served them on disposable china! The ones I used were actually a step up from paper, and turns out I have used them over and over again!
While I love my wedding china... I may not go back to using it for the holidays! It was such a sweet relief to not spend all night in the kitchen washing delicate plates and heirloom silver.
5) I am committing to the worship of sitting down. Recently I heard Ruth Simons say it this way, "Rest is Worship." And I believe she's speaking Gospel-truth with all of my heart. While God may never sleep nor slumber, He promises to give to His beloveds when they are fast asleep. (Ps. 127:2) He gives us healing sleep, He gives us health, and He often works out details when we aren't striving on our own. So I'm committed, this quiet Christmas, to this ceasing from striving sort of worship. More sitting and sleeping, less hustle and bustle.
6) Worship. If there is one thing, however, that I am actively embracing - and encourage you to do as well this advent season, it would be find a worshipful event to attend. Perhaps it will be your church's Christmas concert or the Ladies Christmas Tea, or maybe you can ask your loved ones to give you the Christmas gift of a Christmas Retreat this December!
Whatever it is you do or don't do this Holiday season, let me encourage you to make some intentional choices today, six weeks before that worshipful day, to Quiet Your Heart. There is nothing better during the advent season than to focus on the One it's really all about!