The Christmas Crazy Train
When I was in high school and college, I worked every year for a local Christmas tree lot. We would set up lights, tents, stakes, and poles in mid-November, then huge trucks would drive in from North Carolina a few days before Thanksgiving to deliver hundreds of fresh, beautiful, aromatic Christmas trees. You could almost hear angels singing as the trees were unloaded and set up for display...or not. Maybe that wasn’t angels singing after all. Maybe it was the sound of a bunch of men working tirelessly to create an environment ripe for the business of Christmas. I recall a group of angry tree farmers who had spent the last 10 months exhausting themselves for this one month of hopeful income. There was the guy in charge who wanted everything moved right after we got it set up the first time. And then there was me and the other young, immature teenagers, who were simply there to make minimum wage and leave as soon as possible.
As wonderful as the Christmas season is, especially for followers of Christ, it doesn’t take much to lose sight of what the world is actually stopping to celebrate. It starts at Walmart and Home Depot, the day before Halloween, with aisles of well-lit trees, inflatable Santa’s and elves, and fake snow falling. We begin to make our lists. What to decorate, what to bake, what gifts to buy the kids, and what family members are coming into town (...and why?). I actually had a conversation with a guy today who said...and I quote: “Once I make it through the holiday season, hopefully I’ll have some time to slow down and reconnect with more important things.”
A good friend of mine calls it the “Christmas Crazy Train”. It’s a train that’s easy to ride and tough to get off of. And just about everyone we know is on it, so why not ride too? Does all this sound familiar? Is your family, like mine, at risk of losing sight of why we take the month of December to celebrate the coming of our King to earth?
Listed below are a few things you may find helpful in your attempts to slow down this year and not miss the beauty and glory of celebrating Jesus and his coming to be with us.
Choose to be thankful. It has been scientifically proven that gratitude reduces depression and toxic emotions like resentment, frustration, and regret. If there was ever a time to choose to love our family members with patience and grace, it would be the one cold month where everyone is living together under one roof. Imagine a Christmas filled with serving, loving, and thankfulness. Now choose it this year and ask your family regularly what they are thankful for.
Family game night. Most families have a favorite board game or group game that has some history. Pick a night and make it official...Family Game Night. If you don’t have one, try Charades, Fishbowl, or the Name Game. Great board games include Scattergories, Pictionary, or Trivial Pursuit. (UNO and Phase 10 are some fun family card games) Just remember #1...choose gratitude (and humility) even when you’re playing a competitive game!
Christmas Adam. Our family likes to celebrate every December 23. It’s the night before Christmas Eve, so obviously we call it Christmas Adam. Since December 24 is typically an evening reserved for close family, we invite a few other families over on the 23rd to fellowship and celebrate together. We make a big pot of chili, have a silly gift exchange, and sometimes pull out a guitar and sing a few Christmas worship songs.
Cookies for neighbors. Baking cookies together is a great Christmas tradition in itself. But when you couple it with hand-delivering plates full of homemade cookies as a family to your neighbors, it is a great way to get outside ourselves and give (instead of receiving).
Caroling at an assisted living facility. This is much easier than you think. Make one phone call to a local retirement home and ask if you can bring a few families over one evening to walk the halls and sing Christmas carols. There’s not much sweeter than watching your children sing and worship next to men and women who are more than ten times their age. This is a win-win-win (for all 3 generations in the room).
Christmas lights and hot chocolate. There are many traditions that can help families connect during the season. This is just one idea. We surprised our kids one night in December each year by getting them out of bed (just after putting them down) and jumping in the car in pajamas to drive around, look at lights, and drink hot chocolate. Add good music, reading the Christmas story in Luke, or a short time of prayer for your neighbors to redeem the moment.
In an interesting collision of worlds, the local tree lot I used to work for gave all employees hats and shirts to wear while working. They featured a green Christmas tree and the words “Keep the Christ in Christmas”. That’s my prayer for all of us. That we will lead ourselves and our families to focus more on the coming of Jesus into the world and into our lives, and less on gifts, big meals, and visiting grandma this year. Merry Christmas!