This month I’ve invited some of my favorite friends to help me make this a December to Remember! I’ve asked them to share some of their favorite Christmas stories, memories, reflections, even tips and suggestions for making this season — when we celebrate the birth of Jesus — truly the most wonderful time of the year! Today I’m delighted to have my friend Lucinda “Cindy” Secrest McDowell start us off with some great tips for getting a handle on the holidays!
December is here – let the stress begin! How do we embody the lyrics ‘love and joy come to you’ and ‘all is calm, all is bright,’? Honestly, it’s a struggle. Here we are in a season of waiting for the Prince of Peace and yet all too often there is no peace within our hearts.
I blame it all on Holiday Expectations put upon us by our culture, our loved ones, and especially ourselves. We want this year to be the Best Christmas Ever and so we strive to help make it so, even if it means we leave our hearts behind in the process.
This year can be different! During this Advent Season we can be intentional about embracing Light, and Hope, and Joy, and Peace, and yes, even ‘goodwill to all men.’ Let’s not turn around on New Year’s Day 2015 with regret on how we did or did not spend our precious holiday season. Three words can help us on this journey:
Where will your FOCUS be? It’s been a hard year for many of us and it would be easy to whine about struggles or get depressed at losses. Instead, let’s face our limitations and decide on boundaries – physically, socially, financially, and relationally. I want to welcome our far flung adult kids to a home of acceptance, peace, encouragement and joy. Thus I need to keep myself in a place where that will happen. In the days leading up to Christmas, I will spend time singing carols and focusing on Christ’s coming through scripture and prayer. I will say ‘Yes’ to some things, ‘No’ to others. And I will continue to write down my Gratitude and Thanks to God every day.
Will you have FUN in the process! Yes, our family will watch “Elf” at least once. We will gather around the fire and play games and tell stories and laugh at each other and ourselves. Christmas should be a time of joy and merriment, so let’s make every moment a festive celebration. I use Mama’s Christmas Spode china every single meal through Epiphany (Jan. 6) symbolic of the special nature of the season. We light candles and play Christmas music: Messiah, but also Elvis, Emmy Lou Harris and Michael Buble. And also Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, in homage to my parents. So, smile a lot, be patient and wish every single harried store clerk Merry Christmas.
Will you live out your FAITH in practice and not just words? The best part of the holidays (holy days) are that they remind us of the Good News that God sent His Son to us. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” (John 1.14 MSG) God didn’t just see us struggling down here on earth, shout down from heaven, “Hang in there!” No, He actually ‘moved into the neighborhood’ through Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us.
So we are never alone. Even when we feel alone because there is an empty place at the table and an empty place in our hearts. Even when we feel alone as we start a new year, not knowing what it will hold for us. We are not alone. God came. And because He did, we can be present for others, especially during this season when so many are hurting, needy, and seeking hope. Let’s offer gifts of Grace, Mercy and Time.
How will your Christmas story be one of Focus, Fun and Faith? Sing Carols, do daily Advent Devotions, go to Church, play Christmas Music, light Candles, serve a Birthday cake, watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, fill Stockings, Pray for Peace….
Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller who delights in weaving glimpses of grace and mercy into ordinary life situations. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Seminary and Furman University, she has authored 11 books, including the new 40-day devotional “Live These Words.” Co-director of the New England Christian Writers Retreat, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England. Visit her at www.EncouragingWords.net
Christin here: I’ve created a free printable calendar that you can print out and stick on the fridge or tuck in your planner or journal, to help you put Cindy’s tips into practice and make this a December to Remember! Each day — or as often as you can — list one blessing (something you’re thankful for), one kindness or good deed you’ve done (a blessing you’ve given someone else), NOT to pat yourself on the back, but to remind yourself to do it! Because it’s more blessed to give than to receive… And then one thing you’ve done to enter into the Spirit of Christmas. Something Christmas-y.
To print your calendar, just click on the link: A December to Remember Free Printable.