Well, it’s coming up on that time of year again! Thanksgiving is coming over, which, for many of us, means trying to maintain a prayerful attitude through Advent while getting ready for guests, gifts, more decorating and shopping than we do the rest of the year, and an overall sense of holiday craziness.
In hopes that some of you don’t decorate as obsessively early as I do, here are my suggestions for sane holiday preparations:
1. Write your blog posts about organizing early, and then don’t forget to post them the first weekend of Advent, not the third! (And right now, you’re all saying, “Geez, she couldn’t even get this posted before the decorating/baking/shopping season started, how much can she possibly know about organizing?”)
2. Prioritize. What needs to get done? What would you like to get done? What will your budget really support without giving you a massive case of buyers’ remorse when you get your credit card bills in January? Plan for prayer times.
3. Prayer. Too often, I have figured that, yeah, I’ll fit prayer time in this Advent. Guess what? It rarely happens. Instead, plan for it. Put it on the schedule. Start a Jesse Tree project with your kids: ta da! Scripture reading and craft every day, and nary a Santa Claus in sight. For adults, I suggest some structured form of Advent daily readings. I recently got a free copy of Magnificat in the mail. It includes the daily scripture readings, saints’ stories, and a simplified Daily Office (morning and evening prayers); I’ve really enjoyed it so far. (Also available for kids!)
4. Before going shopping, finish (or start) your year-end giving or tithe. Want to be satisfied with what you get? Start by giving to those who can’t pay you back. Food for the Poor offers Christmas “packages” of flocks of geese, goats, and pigs to give to those whose lives will be changed by such a tiny gift. Grace and Hope is doing a year-end drive to get more orphans into foster care in China. Many churches host a Giving Tree, where you can pick an ornament with a Christmas request from a poor child who otherwise won’t get a gift. There are plenty of organizations out there.
5. Fight the materialism being pushed by our culture. In our family, that means reining in the over-indulgent grandparents. (I recommend having that discussion early.) Encourage something that will be appreciated more (and longer) than the usual frivolous “OOOH, look at that pink plastic glittery thing on the commercial!”
6. Constantly re-focus. Christmas (stay with me, here) is about Christ. Our family made a concious decision to forego Santa Claus. We celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day, but not Santa. (My short explanation: a) I don’t believe in telling my kids lies, even “in fun”, and b) isn’t Jesus good enough?!?)
Our Christmas decorations inside mainly involve a whole lot of greenery, lights, and faux sugared fruit, reminders of God’s constant faithfulness (evergreens), light in the darkness, and abundant generosity to us (and the kids get that explanation every year). Plus, I do the same thing every year, so it isn’t that difficult. A terra cotta Nativity I bought in Italy on deployment is moved to a central position in the middle of the mantle, directly over the crucifix that hangs under the mantle.
And, perhaps my favorite, a gigantic Nativity scene takes over the breakfast bar counters, between the kitchen and the living room. I have had a family member (who has a giant Santa collection) sniff, “Well! I prefer smaller, less showy Nativities.” Well, I don’t. I think it keeps focus to constantly have before us a Nativity scene as a major component of our decorating for Christmas.
7. Shop. Decorate. Bake. Wrap. Love. Relax. And be amazed that the God of the Universe made Himself tiny, powerless, and dependent for our sakes.
(and go visit Jen at Conversion Diary, host of the weekly 7 Quick Takes!)