I’m a big-time list maker. Anyone who knows me would agree. Before I invited Christ to be at the center of my life, I tried to find purpose and meaning through endless checklists of what I thought this world expected of me. This was especially true during the Christmas season. But that all changed when I realized that loving God was all that needed to top my list each day. This is part of what led me to write my new children’s book The Cure for the Christmas Crazies, which is all about joyfully giving thanks for the birth of Christ in the midst of our seasonal activities.
Here are a few magazine cover stories that used to grab my attention:
- Set the Best Dining Table
- Find the Perfect Presents for all the Family
- Best Cookies Ever
- 130 Handmade Ideas
Really, 130? I’m stressed out just reading that!
Fortunately, I’m now drawn to articles with suggestions for keeping Christ in Christmas. There are lots of nice ideas like Jesse trees and charitable activities, but my list still gets overloaded. So this year I made myself a “Do-Not” list:
Do not try to cram every activity before December 25th
After all, Christmas is just beginning on that day. I like to consider the joy an expectant mother feels when her new baby finally arrives. Does she suddenly say “Okay, that’s over!” and pack away all the new clothes, toys, gifts and cards? No, actually we’re more likely to gather, just to be in the presence of new life. To extend the celebration you could host a feast day gathering, centered around the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph on December 27th, or The Baptism of the Lord on January 10th.
Do not try to do it all by yourself
Instead of tackling a full menu on my own, I’ll try a potluck dinner and get everyone involved. Save the cookie baking to share with kids while they are on break from school. Get teens involved in charity work. Let Dad address a few of those Christmas cards.
Do not think you have to write a lengthy personal message in every card
Just concentrate on a few each year. A smaller amount of thoughtful connections could make a bigger difference, especially with those distant friends that I have the least contact with throughout the year.
Do not complain
Grumbling about the traffic, crowds or commercialized aspects of the season just spreads the negativity. Try to put a positive spin on it, especially with kids. “Wow, look how many people are out shopping today. They must be very excited about the birthday of Jesus coming up!” This same lighthearted tone is carried throughout my book, so I’ll make a point to live it each day.
Do not try to match up the dollar amount spent on everyone on your list
It only promotes an attitude of entitlement and leads to frivolous spending. If I select a thoughtful gift that is just right for Susie, then she shouldn’t complain that it didn’t cost as much as the gift for Billy. It’s the thought that counts right?
Do not strive to create the “perfect” Christmas
No matter what visions of sugar plums are dancing in my head, the reality will include something unexpected. I’ll always remember the Christmas Eve that my husband picked up KFC for dinner because I had been sick in bed with the flu for the previous 24 hours. Not the Holy Night I had envisioned, but certainly more memorable! We all realized that we didn’t need a big fancy meal to celebrate the true beauty of the holiday. I don’t make Christmas happen with all of my planning and perfecting. It’s a gift to all of us, regardless of any efforts we make.
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. — 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
If you find yourself itching for something to add to your to-do list, then I only suggest to make it truly spiritual and include others. This is the focus throughout my new children’s book, The Cure for the Christmas Crazies. It’s about embracing the way we celebrate, yet offering each task, each gathering, each light on the tree, as a gesture of thanks for the great gift of Christmas.
May you have a blessed Christmas!
About the author: April Hartmann is a wife and mother of 3, enjoying life in the hills of western Pennsylvania. She is a professional illustrator with more than twenty years of experience in children’s publishing, and a growing love of writing for children. When she’s not writing or painting, she’s usually behind the wheel, chauffeuring to soccer and gymnastics practices. She fills whatever time is left with volunteering at the elementary school and teaching religious education at her local parish. Her new children’s book, The Cure for the Christmas Crazies, is available online at www. ahcreations.com, along with her blog and free printables.
Copyright 2015 April Hartmann.
Images copyright 2015 April Hartmann. All rights reserved.