I’m participating in The Nester’s 31 Days Challenge, so for the month of October I’ll be writing each day about 31 Days of Christmas: plan a little now to enjoy it more later. You can see all of the posts here.
Way back on Day 2 I talked about how it’s easy to get lost in all of the trappings and “to-do”s of Christmas. But Christmas is about celebrating that God became a man to save us. That is the most important thing – His love and sacrifice.
I realize that I have spent the majority of this series talking about things other than the the most important thing. I wanted to share ways to prepare for Christmas to free up time and energy to focus on what is most important. So today I just want to focus on preparing our hearts for Christmas. You may already have ways that you and your family choose to realign your focus. They may be activities from your Don’t Miss List, or they may be new traditions that you decide to start.
Have any of you done a Jesse Tree? It’s similar to other Advent calendars, but it focuses on God’s plan of redemption – starting with creation and culminating in the birth of Christ. Every day from December 1 through 25, a unique ornament that symbolizes Jesus and part of his heritage is placed on the tree (a small separate “Jesse Tree” or the standard Christmas tree). A Scripture reading goes along with each ornament, building anticipation for the birth of the Savior. There are great posts about Jesse Trees from Christmas Your Way, Beauty and Bedlam, and Ann Voskamp. Matt and I have never done a Jesse Tree, but it’s something that I’m considering. I think that it could definitely help us prepare our hearts for Christmas, even if we don’t do the ornaments this year but instead simply focus on the Scripture readings.
Ann Voskamp has a Christmas book called “The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas” that has a devotional reading and Scripture passage every day from December 1 to December 25. I already bought it and read the first day – it’s wonderful and I can’t wait to read it all! I think that reading this consistently for weeks leading up to Christmas will really help me have the right focus. (Quick side note – I don’t have any affiliate links and I’m not being sponsored. I’m just really excited about this book and I wanted to share.)
One of my favorite Christmas stories to read every year is O. Henry’s short story “The Gift of the Magi.” It’s the story of a young married couple who sacrifice to buy each other Christmas gifts. While there’s no mention of Jesus until the end, it’s a beautiful feel-good story that always gives me a fresh perspective. I remember a point in December a couple of years ago when I felt stressed and out of whack; I felt a tug to read this story again and it made me tear up, take a deep breath, and relax with a better mindset about what really matters. (And it’s not buying Christmas gifts…. go read the story. :-))
I love when Advent starts and the sermon series at church shifts to a Christmas focus. I love when our songs of worship get more centered on the gift of our Savior. It really helps me have the right perspective. Over the last few years, I’ve tried to listen to a few (Advent-themed) sermons from other pastors that I respect during the week so that I can get a mid-week refresh.
Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I’ve found that the best way for something to stick is for me to be exposed to it (reading, listening, etc.) over and over again. I know that I haven’t shared anything revolutionary today, but I just want to encourage you to be intentional about finding ways that work for you to prepare your heart for Christmas. Build time into your schedule, slow down, and focus on the loving Savior who gave up heaven to come to earth… for you.
I love what Ann Voskamp writes here – “Doesn’t seeking him make you heart yearn more?”
How about you? How do you prepare your heart for Christmas?
There are only a few days left in this series – can you believe it? It feels like I just started but at the same time it’s hard to believe that it will be over on Thursday!