How would you describe the perfect Christmas? When you envision the weeks leading up to Christmas and Christmas Day itself, what traditions, activities and people come to mind? Perhaps your perfect Christmas involves searching for and cutting down the perfect tree and decorating it together as a family. Maybe it’s curling up next to the fire with mugs of steaming hot chocolate or dressing in Christmas pajamas and watching movies together. Perhaps, the perfect Christmas means gathering your family together to make Christmas cookies from recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. Or, maybe, the perfect Christmas begins with gathering as a family for your church’s Christmas Eve service. Whatever you envision, I think we all have this desire to have the perfect Christmas. We want to make beautiful memories with our kids. We want to slow down and enjoy time with family. We want to keep our focus on Jesus and take time to reflect on the gift of His birth. We want to soak in every moment of this season and enjoy it.
But, how often does our Christmas look exactly like the one we envision? How often do our expectations for the season match the reality of the season? How often does our Christmas actually look more like the one described in this clip? https://skitguys.com/videos/item/christmas-chaos.
Christmas chaos. How many of you have ever found yourself in the midst of it? I know I have. Every year, despite my desire to really slow down and savor the season, I find that I get caught up in “celebrating” Christmas. I want to do all the things. I want to make thirty different types of cookies. I want to completely transform my home into a winter wonderland. I want to go to all of the parties, see all the lights, eat all the food, make all of the memories. I don’t want my family to miss out on any experience this season has to offer so I fill our calendar with one activity after another and try to do it all.
Now, there isn’t anything wrong in wanting to experience some of the things this season has to offer, but, what often happens to me, is that I get so busy “celebrating” Christmas and doing all the things that I fail to truly CELEBRATE Christmas and the birth of my Savior. The very One who we are to be celebrating takes a back burner to the lights, the presents, the tree, the experiences. Have you ever been there? Have you ever allowed the busyness that can come with the Christmas season come before Jesus? I have, and that got me thinking. Is there a way that we can find a balance? Is there a way that we can keep our focus on Jesus and still enjoy some of the fun that the Christmas season brings? There is. But, it’s going to take a shift in our perspective and an unloading of our beams.
Our beams. They represent the time that we have in one day, and we spend our days loading things to be accomplished onto them. Now, every day we have things that have to go on the beam. Ways in which we care for ourselves and our families are examples of these. Every day as moms, we have to feed babies, change diapers, make meals, go to work, give baths, put kids down for naps, take kids to the potty, feed pets, take kids to school, get kids to the bus on time, and help with homework. There are also household tasks that frequently get added to the beam. There is always laundry to do, vacuuming, dusting, picking up the house, scrubbing bathrooms, mopping floors, cleaning sinks, doing dishes, checking email, paying bills, buying groceries, getting gas for the car, caring for the garden, mowing the grass, raking leaves, and shoveling snow. On any given day, our beam quickly fills with daily tasks that most days, just have to be done. You can’t skip changing the baby’s diaper or decide one month that you just aren’t going to pay your bills. Some things have to be done. Some things have to go onto the beam.
But, we also place things on our beam that don’t necessarily have to be there. We place things on our beams that we feel we are expected to do: keeping up to date on social media, taking our kids to story time at the library, doing Mommy and Me swimming lessons with our babies, volunteering in the PTO, completing Pinterest worthy snacks and craft projects. These are all good things, but sometimes they only go on our beams because we feel we are expected to do them or we won’t measure up as good moms. Our beams quickly become full on any given day.
And then, we add Christmas into the mix: parties, shopping, baking, Christmas cards, decorating, visits with Santa, shopping for families in need, elves on the shelves, creating the perfect family memories. We load our already full beams even more heavily during the Christmas season.
And what’s usually the result? What happens when we overload our already full beams during the Christmas season? Our beams become too full, we lose our balance, and we find ourselves in the midst of Christmas chaos. We become stressed, and we get grumpy. Negative thoughts threaten to consume us, and we feel defeated in our efforts to create the “perfect” Christmas. A season that is meant to be filled with such joy can quickly begin to feel stressful and so overwhelming.
What do we do when this happens? What do we do when we find ourselves with an overloaded beam and in the midst of Christmas chaos? We have to take some things off of our beams.
To begin this process, it’s important to understand how full our beams actually are. I want you to make a list of the extra things you add to your beam during the Christmas season. For me, my list looks something like this: shop Black Friday online sales, decorate the house (this usually takes an entire day to empty the more than ten large tubs of decorations I have in the basement), Light Up night with the Grammy and Papa, my husband’s work party, bake Christmas cookies (six types at least), make banana bread to give as gifts, deliver banana bread to neighbors, take Christmas card pictures, send out Christmas cards, go to kids’ holiday concerts, wrap gifts, watch Christmas movies, do Advent calendars with the kids, go to Christmas Eve service, celebrate Christmas with both sides of the family . . . What about you? What extra things do you add to your beam during the Christmas season?
Now, take a look at those extra things you add to your beam and ask yourself why you add them to your beam each Christmas. Do you add them to your beam because you really love doing them with your family? Or, are they only on your beam because they are a longstanding family tradition, something you feel is expected of you, or something you feel pressured to do because everyone else is doing it? What is the motivation behind the traditions and activities you place on your beam each Christmas?
Now that we’ve identified the extra things we add to our beams each Christmas and the reason we add them, we’re going to identify those traditions and activities we can unload from our beams. To do this, we’ll answer two questions. The first one: Does this tradition bring myself and my family closer to Jesus? Question two: Is this tradition worthy of space on my beam?
Look at your beam. Which traditions turn your focus back towards Jesus and draw you closer to Him? Every morning, starting with the first Sunday of Advent, my kids and I work through an advent calendar that has us reading and reflecting upon the Christmas story. This tradition keeps our focus on Jesus. This tradition reminds us of why we celebrate Christmas. It needs to stay on my beam. What about you? Do you have any traditions that bring you and your family closer to Jesus? If so, keep it on your beam.
Next, as you look at your beam, ask yourself if the remaining traditions on your beam are worthy of your time and space on your beam. Are they traditions that you honestly love to do and bring you joy? Are they worthy of the space they are taking up on your beam?
Our family started a new tradition just in the past few years. And I’ll be honest, it was a tradition that we started because I was completely envious of all of you who posted on social media about your trips to the Christmas tree farm to cut down your own tree. I wanted those memories for my own kids. Now, I have to admit that it hasn’t been smooth sailing for our family. Our first tree, named Bob (we name everything in our house), fell over so much that I quit keeping track of the number of times I had to sop water off of the floor. Our second tree, Rosalina, quit taking on water within the first week and proceeded to drop her needles in the weeks before Christmas. Last year, I thought we had picked out the perfect tree, until we got her in the house and realized that once we cut her wrapping off, she took up a good 1/4 of our living room. We may or may not have had 200 lbs of counterweights tied to Large Marge, as we affectionately called her, to keep her standing upright. After Christmas, my husband had to actually remove most of her branches just to get her back out the door. I cried that day. It was absolutely devastating to watch.
Reflecting on our experiences with getting a real tree each year, one may wonder if this tradition is worthy of space on my beam. I have to answer, yes, it is. It is because even though it doesn’t always turn out perfectly, I LOVE going to the tree farm. I LOVE helping my husband cut down a tree. I LOVE bringing the tree home and taking bets on how long it will stay standing. I LOVE how each tree we bring into our home is unique. I LOVE the joy I get from this tradition. For me, it is worthy of space on my beam. What about you? The extra traditions and activities you have added to your beam during the Christmas season . . . are they worthy of space on your beam?
Now, I want you to look at the remaining traditions on your beam. Are there any there that tend to move you towards Christmas chaos? Be honest. Is there anything that you do year after year that you absolutely dread? Is there anything on your beam that is adding to your stress this Christmas season? If so, I would encourage you to let it go. Take it off of your beam.
I also want you to remember that sometimes we need to take things off of our beams just for just a season. Growing up, my husband and his dad created train displays to go under the Christmas tree. It was a tradition he wanted to start with our own kids. But, for many years, we did not set up a train under the tree. Why? It wasn’t the right season for it. Our kids were little, and toddlers and model trains are not always a good mix. No, this tradition needed to wait until we moved into a different season. A season when our kids were older and more responsible. That’s when that tradition could go back on the beam.
Is there a tradition on your beam that isn’t a good fit for your current season? If so, take it off your beam.
Finding the perfect balance during the Christmas season can be difficult. As you examine how you spend your time during this season, I would challenge you to ask yourself if what you and your family are spending time on is bringing you closer to Jesus? Is your beam full of traditions that bring you joy and still honor Him? This season is sacred and the world will make every attempt to turn our focus towards it and away from Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him, and fill your beam with things that honor Him. For He IS the reason that we celebrate.
“Christmas Chaos.” SkitGuys. https://skitguys.com/videos/christmas-chaos. Accessed 28 Nov. 2021.
Hatmaker, Jen. For The Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. Thomas Nelson Pub. 2018.
http://www.pinterest.com/holyriotsoldier/christmas/. Accessed 11 Dec. 2021.