WOW! We are just about three weeks away from Christmas!
What’s your favorite part of the Christmas season? I love the music. Every year some of my favorite groups/singers come out with a new Christmas album. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve heard the same, traditional songs; I still love hearing a fresh take on an old classic. This year I’m listening to Johnnyswim’s A Johnnyswim Christmas, Darius Rucker’s Home For the Holidays, and Shane and Shane’s A Worship Initiative Christmas.
With the great music, movies, and tv specials come the hustle and bustle of the season, guaranteed to bring a combination of joy and groans for you and your family. A few years ago, my friends Lance & Mandy Sisco taught a newly married event at Watermark called Thriving During the Holidays. They did a great job on this topic, and their teaching is relevant for both newlywed and not-so-newlywed couples. You can download both their handout and the audio teaching. The handout alone is fantastic: holiday date ideas, ways to serve together, creative gift ideas, and a bunch of expectations questions (Note: Some of the content is dated in the handout from when they taught the class, but the concepts still apply).
Below are a few highlights from their talk mixed in with some other pointers to make this your best Christmas yet!
1. Discuss Your Christmas Expectations.
You have expectations about everything related to Christmas, whether you know it or not.We have expectations about the type of tree we’ll get, the color and size of lights, when we decorate, when we open gifts, where we’ll spend the holidays, and so much more. A failure to discuss these expectations with your significant other will inevitably lead to conflict. To help you work through unmet expectations, check out Expectations Are Everything and 3 Better Ways to Handle Your Unmet Expectations.
2. Have conversations about Christmas and money.
How much will you spend on gifts for one another, for your kids, for Aunty Maude, your boss, the postman, and many others? Your finances are not just ‘going to work out’ without planning. Dr. Phil (ahem) says it well: “It’s math, not magic.” Communicate with your spouse and align your financial expectations.
3. Read a Christmas Book or Advent Devotional.
There are so many great ones out there to read on your own, with your spouse, or with your kids.
- A few of my personal favorites:
- Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative, by Russ Ramsey.
- Hidden Christmas, by Timothy Keller.
- Come Let Us Adore Him, by Paul David Tripp.
- John Piper and Desiring God have written a few great Advent Devotionals. For example, check out The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.
- Parents: A few years ago we read Jotham’s Journey with our kids. Our kids were hooked and I was too! It’s part of a three-part series, and you can read one book each year.
4. Decide what traditions you are going to have as a family. (a.k.a. Be a Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins)
You both came into marriage with traditions from your family of origin. Which ones will you bring into your family and which ones are you going to keep out? We look forward to walking or driving through neighborhoods looking at lights. Last year we caroled with some friends in our neighborhood, and every year we watch a few classics like Home Alone and Elf - definite traditions for the Kedersha boys!
5. Look for ways to serve others.
There are many great ways to serve others during the holidays: Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child, and many more. If you're in Dallas/Fort Worth, check out the list Watermark put together for opportunities to serve as a family.
6. Take some time to simply... relax!
Watch some movies, take in a College Football Bowl Games, play games as a family, read a great book. We go, go, go all year round, including the holiday season. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a nap or fall asleep on the couch, cuddled up with a loved one.
7. Be prepared for the tough as well as the great.
In the midst of all the celebrating, Christmas tends to bring family conflict and can also exacerbate grief when you think of a loved one who is no longer with you. My step-dad passed away earlier this year, so this will be the first Christmas in 33 years without him in our family. A few encouragements:
- Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Paul’s words are a great guide to living in peace with others, doing as much as we can to live peaceably with all.
- The GriefShare ministry compiled some good articles for those who have lost a loved one.
8. Last word… be a great host!
Whether you are at your home, your family of origin, your in-laws, or someplace else: be a great host. A great host says, “There you are,” whereas a guest always says, “Here I am.”
In a season when we celebrate the coming of the One who came to die on our behalf, may we follow His example by putting the needs of others before our own and keeping our eyes focused on someone other than ourselves. Christmas is a great opportunity to serve and be a great “host” to others.
Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas and may this be the best Christmas yet.
Some Questions and A Challenge:
What’s your favorite Christmas song? How about your favorite Christmas Album/MP3/cassette/CD/8-track? Your favorite Christmas movie? Your favorite Advent devotional? Your favorite tradition?
Out of the list of 9 things above, what can you do to help set yourself up for the best Christmas yet?