Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Re-evaluating Christmas

Hopefully by now, most of us have started to recover from the flurry of activity from the last four weeks. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, life is a whirlwind of events, to say the least! I usually find that the time from December 25th to New Year's allows me an opportunity to catch my breath.

Re-evaluating Christmas during this week may seem unnecessary to you, and even pointless, but with the constant pressure to commercialize what was originally set aside as a day of worship and celebration, the need to regularly assess is incredible! Over the years, I've tried to be diligent to direct our activities toward the sacred, but it's amazing how quickly things can slide back to the secular. (Please note that I am aware Christmas was originally set aside by the early church on a pagan holiday, but nothing in scripture prohibits us from honoring God on any given day - Romans 14:5,6.)

Circumstances beyond our control can also throw off regular holiday patterns. Illness, travel, grief (due to a loved one's passing), and unusual life events disrupt our normal routines. God certainly allows these times in our life to serve His purposes and He uses them to refine us, but that does not mean that we shouldn't be purposeful and diligent about focusing our activities during the holiday season in order to make sure the time is mostly spent on the important and not just the urgent. 

During this week of relatively "quiet" moments, set aside some time to discuss Christmas 2011 with your spouse and family members. If you're not purposeful in handling holiday choices, you'll be thrust from event to event and end up feeling very dissatisfied spiritually... which is to miss the point of Christmas! 

Although you may not agree with how John Piper's family handles Christmas, I highly recommend that you read his article How We See Christmas Symbols. He discusses not only how they handle Santa Claus, but how they decorate during the holidays and why. At the very least, it will help you to get started thinking why you do what you do at Christmas!

How To Re-evaluate Christmas
Tips reposted from August 31, 2010: Evaluating Christmas

1. Get your spouse on board. Share your heart and be willing to compromise. It might not come as passionately to all the members of your family, especially if you have a spouse who is like a grown up kid at Christmas! Don't get frustrated, just ask that the family consider making one change this Christmas and see how everyone likes it.

2. Evaluate your Christmas values together as a family. Do not skip this step! If you do, you'll likely miss what is really important to your family. Be sure to ask questions such as:
• What is the most important thing that you want your family to do to in order to truly celebrate Christ's birth? 
• What is hindering you from celebrating?
What puts a damper on the season?
What truly gives you satisfaction at Christmas time?
When do you feel you've worshiped the most during past Christmases?
What traditions meant the most to you as a child?
What current activities do you have that your children will call traditions?
Are these the traditions you want for your family?
What is missing that you feel needs to be included?
What do you wish you could eliminate this year if you knew it wouldn't hurt anyone's  feelings?
If there is a family obligation that cannot be eliminated, how can you interject something  into the situation that would make it better for everyone?

3. Pray. Based on your evaluation, you will start to camp out on something that you know in your heart needs to be changed. It might be the most difficult thing on your list, but it's bugging you the most. Ask God if this is the thing that you need to change this year. And if it's not this, then ask Him to show you what He would have you do.

4. Form a plan. After you've spent some time in prayer, start planning how you will implement your new priority. This, too, will require prayer! Most likely, something will need to be eliminated in order to add something in. How will you handle that? How will you notify family? How can you make it sound as positive as it really is? Think this through carefully.

5. Schedule it if necessary. Put it on the calendar. If it's baking cookies, set aside a day to gather supplies and another day to do the activity. If it's building an outdoor nativity together, block off a weekend.

6. Contact those it affects. Family pow-wow. A phone call. Email. Whatever it is, don't wait until too late or you might have hard feelings. People need time to adjust to new things. This doesn't mean they are rejecting your idea, they just need time to get use to it. If it involves less gifts, it is courteous to notify family in advance, before purchases are made. And if it requires a change in family plans, this is a must!

7. Re-evaluate after Christmas. This is highly important!
Did it meet your expectations?
Did if flop?
Was it awkward?
Was it a hit?
Who loved it and who didn't? Why?
Was it just 'new' and needs to be tried again next year?
What changes would make it better?
Would you do it again?
What would you like to add next year?

8.  Write it down. I keep a Christmas notebook so that I will remember things from year to year. While you may remember the wonderful time you had, you may forget the details that made it so successful. Be sure to include notes for changes next year.

9. Follow up and thank family. Be sure to express your gratitude for those who had to be flexible. Let them know how your family was blessed by the changes and find out if they were pleased as well.

10. Begin thinking of next year. Be in prayer and open to the Holy Spirit for how you can continue to make changes each year. Your family will grow and change and your activities each year will need to adjust as well. As children grow and get married, their spouses will come with traditions of their own. Working in a spirit of love and developing communication now will lay a foundation for working with new members in years to come.

What are some changes you plan to make for Christmas 2012?


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