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Christmas is coming fast! As I write this, it’s three weeks from today already. If you’re like me, realizing that you’ve got less than three weeks left to finish all the preparations for the holiday might make you start to panic! Three weeks to finish shopping for presents, get them all wrapped, do the holiday baking, throw/attend some Christmas parties, forget to buy a gift for someone and have to go shopping last minute, get the food prepared… why didn’t I start all this in August?! 

It’s pretty common to feel overwhelmed at Christmas, unfortunately. It’s a season with lots of expectations and pressure – even if it is more than a little self-inflicted. Add to all the expectations and pressure the fact that Christmas can also be a difficult time of year for people as we often get together with family we don’t see much (which can add all sorts of stress!) or as we find ourselves missing someone (whether they can’t be with us or we have lost a loved one) and Christmas becomes a mess of stress and emotions that can drive anyone nuttier than a fruitcake. 

So, here’s a thought: Slow. Down. 

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a time of preparation and expectation for Jesus’ arrival on Christmas. Over the centuries, we’ve added all kind of things to that celebration – most for good reasons – but they’re all extra. Christmas is about celebrating Jesus our Savior’s birth and recognizing our need to be saved from our sins (Matthew 1:21). Period. Presents, parties, and having a picture-perfect Christmas are all extras, and if they don’t happen, guess what: Jesus is still your Savior, born to save you from your sins. 

Now, I’m also realistic. There are things that you can’t get out of at Christmas time. As much as you might like to, you probably can’t just cross out the month of December and say no to everything. So, here are some suggestions to take a step toward slowing down. Consider this me giving you permission to slow down!

  • Go to church. You didn’t think I’d start by letting you off the hook here, did you? Worship is important and during Advent, we’re consistently brought back to center each week as we hear about the real reason for all the festivities. You and your family need this time together to survive the onslaught of other distractions! Don’t neglect worship!
  • Pick a night to stay home each week. It’s easy to feel pulled in a hundred directions this season. Decide in advance to protect at least one night each week when you can be home and just relax. Maybe plan it as a movie night with the kids or a time when you can just sit and have dinner together without rushing on to the next thing. It doesn’t have to be the same day each week either. 
  • Prioritize! You probably have lots of options of things to do as part of the celebration of the season: Christmas parties, gatherings, events – whatever you want to call them, you’ve probably got a few to attend. As a family, decide how many of those kind of things are reasonable to attend. Then, practice saying a simple word: “No.” Actually, make it three words: “No, thank you.” You can’t attend everything and you’d kill yourself trying. People will understand. If you’re really bummed about having to say no to an invitation, maybe make plans with that person after the holidays. It might mean even more when you get past the holiday business and can really slow down and connect!
  • Do a devotion. We’ve provided some resources this season, but there are lots of Advent devotions out there. Find something that works for you – even if it’s something super short and sweet. It doesn’t need to take an hour to get through. Even just 5 minutes reflecting on God’s Word alone or together as a family is time well spent! 

I’m sure there are lots of other ways to slow down, but let’s start with these. Here’s the permission you might be looking for to slow down this holiday season and focus on what really matters – the gift of Jesus to save you from your sins – and rejoice and relax!