Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why Are We Doing This?

If you are reading this in email, please scroll down for Monday's post.

What do the holidays mean to you? Do they mean mangers and stars and shepherds and a baby born? Do they mean menorahs and temple dedication? Do they mean solstice? Do they mean gifts and lights and shopping and Santa? Do they mean lots and lots of good food, parties, and family togetherness?

The holidays are huge on every level of our lives, no matter our religious faith (or lack thereof). That's why I think it's important for each of us to take stock well before we start and ask ourselves why we do the holiday stuff we do. When we truly understand why, we can more easily and intentionally decide what we need to do and what is (surprise!) actually optional.

Like many people, I find that I set the standard of the holidays a little too high. I want to do more than time allows. I underestimate how much time wrapping presents or baking cookies or addressing Christmas cards will take. I then lose sight of what is really important to me and get lost in the busyness of it all.

Of course, each one of you will answer the "why" question differently. There is no one right way to celebrate the winter holidays, although I would argue there are wrong ways. It's wrong to go into debt and it's wrong to be Scrooge. It's wrong to focus on things and not people. It's wrong to be ungrateful. These behaviors are wrong all the time, not just for the holidays.

So, how do we find a right way to celebrate the holidays for ourselves and our families?

I recommend starting at the heart of the holidays for you. Because I am a Christian, Christmas is about Christ's birth...the birth of God, self-limited, who came to teach us about love and sacrifice, mercy and faith. I need to keep my holiday activities centered on Christ. This isn't easy in the land of shiny tinsel and iPods, but it's worth it.

Your center may be quite different. Perhaps you want to focus on your family and friends. Or perhaps on community service. Or entertaining. Or giving.

Perhaps you're not in a happy place right now, and all the joy and excitement you see starting up around you simply makes you sad. Perhaps you're grieving or have lost your job or are going through a nasty divorce. Perhaps you get exhausted simply thinking about all the "pretending to be happy" you need to do for the next two months.

Whether you're entering the holiday season with joy or dread, think about what those holidays really mean to you, what is truly good about them for you. Write down a sentence or two. Then, think of what you need to do to focus on the good in the holidays.

Here are some things I will do to keep Christ in the center.

1. Worship in faith community. This means signing up to be liturgist during Advent and spearheading the Stephen Ministry ornaments for our congregation.

2. Teaching my children about Advent and Christmas and what it means to give, especially through Operation Christmas Child.

3. Writing about Advent and the Nativity for my blogs to help myself and other Christians keep their focus.

4. Reaching out to our community and the world through donations to missions. (I--and lots of other Methodists--give to the United Methodist Committee on Relief every Christmas.)

5. Remembering Jesus' birth with gratitude in all aspects of holiday activities.

For right now, think about what is most important to you for your holidays. Then, list 2-5 activities that are central to honoring that most important thing. Don't worry about a plan yet for achieving those activities, just think about what they should be...those non-negotiable things.

I'd love it if you shared your thoughts in the comments. Who knows what wonderful ideas you might spark for other readers or for me!!!?!


  1. I really enjoyed this read. It's good to have a reminder to step back during this hetic/busy season and find the focus of the holidays.

    Since my brain is rather mush after my ride today, I'll be back when I am able to put a coherent thought together!! ;)

  2. Food for thought. Speaking of food, I have decided that most of the baking is optional since I end up eating half of it myself! Planning to scale way back this year, which will hopefully free up some time to get my cards sent earlier than the usual last minute scramble. Work smarter, not harder. That's my new motto.

  3. Good food for thought - I need this as I'm already stressed with a lot going on that has nothing to do with Christmas. My focus this year will be finding a way to give gifts that is not over the top, exhausting, etc. Being from a small community (island) and very family orientated society, my Christmas present list is over 50 and I find it crazy and imbalanced compared to what I want to focus on - Christ's birth. Will be praying for wisdom and direction.

  4. Whenever the subject of what is your favorite holiday comes up, I always think of the answer my daughter gave when she was in preschool. My family put together a cookbook and the kids did drawings for it. My daughter said her favorite holiday was her birthday. The drawing had stick figures of her family along with a big cake. Still makes me smile.

  5. I have always dreaded the holidays. Right before Thanksgiving a veil of gloom would fall over me and not disappear until after New Year's. I used to think that if my parents were gone and no longer a source of great stress that I would face the holidays with a different spirit (you'll just have to go with me on this one). So this year is the year that both my parents are gone and I no longer have the obligation and the stress associated with making them happy. I was right. I don't have the gloom either. So, this year I intend to focus on just making the holiday work for us.

    1. having friends over for a cookie exchange party
    2. simple decorations
    3. sending more cards than normal to let folks know of our new address (store bought will supplement)
    4. doing something nice for others
    5. not driving myself nuts expecting too much from my kid.

    Thanks for the chance to read your thoughts and share mine! Have a wonderful holiday season.

    1. Have a wonderful holiday season, too, Joan! Thanks for taking time to share!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!