And with the stroke of midnight and the turning back of the clocks…it happened. Somehow we magically moved into the mysterious time we call the “holiday season.” In just three days my Facebook feed has lit up with posts about Christmas, posts against Christmas, and posts pitting Thanksgiving and Christmas against each other. Christmas music has started playing on the radio and Thanksgiving turkeys are starting to show up in grocery stores. The whirlwind begins.
Keep in mind, dear friends, that I LOVE the whirlwind. I embrace it like a moth to a flame. The busy isn’t busy to me – it’s rich and full and bursting with life. Time with friends and family becomes the essential instead of the extracurricular and food, fun, and fellowship the norm rather than the exception.
But the is also the time of year where I see Stress get a capital-S. Because while all those things above happen, so does all the other stuff that goes on year-round. It’s not like we hit the pause button on life so that we can celebrate; instead the celebration gets piled on already busy, stressed-out lives.
A recent study by Pew Research has found that in nearly half of two-parent homes, both parents work full-time.
How does that affect the family? The same research found that:
- Of full-time working parents, 39 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say they feel as if they spend too little time with their children.
- 59% percent of full-time working mothers say they don’t have enough leisure time, and more than half of working fathers say the same.
- 56% percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding
One mother interviewed by the New York Times said this, “You basically just always feel like you’re doing a horrible job at everything. You’re not spending as much time with your baby as you want, you’re not doing the job you want to be doing at work, you’re not seeing your friends hardly ever.”
When we add in the holidays, and all the stuff I mentioned that I love, on top of this…for many it is overwhelming.
And then, if we add in on top of that the calling for parents to intentionally lead and disciple their kids at home, using this time of year to teach them about gratitude, serving others, compassion, self-sacrifice, and giving through things like serving at a mission or participating in a food drive or giving up presents…for many, it feels impossible.
Parents, may I encourage you?
For a brief moment, before we are rushed headlong into this season, can I give you this small respite of grace?
You don’t have to do it all.
You don’t have to do it perfectly.
You don’t have to make all the best choices, provide the best experiences, or present the best opportunities.
But, if you can step back and before it all starts simply say, “Jesus, this year, with our family and our children, show us how to invite you into our everyday holiday season. In what we are already doing, show us how to have You be a part of it. Be present in our presence;” if you can do that, my bet is at least part of the weight will lift from your shoulders.
Some simple ideas, using those everyday moments from Deuteronomy 6:7 “when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” could transform your holiday season without you feeling like you do a “horrible job” at everything. Things like…
When you sit at home: Doing a Thankful Pumpkin at dinner (see “how to” here), Watching a Christmas movie and looking for Jesus in it (see ideas for movie night discussion here), Wrapping gifts for family members and praying for each one while you do.
When you walk along the road: Listening to Christian Christmas Carols and asking what part of the Christmas story it was about, Looking at Christmas lights and talking about how Jesus is our Light (check out this Christmas lights scavenger hunt if you have a long drive), Handing out Blessings Bags to those in need.
When you lie down: Create a wall of blessing that you add to each night at bedtime (just tack up a piece of posterboard and let kids decorate with stickers, pictures, etc. and list the year’s blessings, one each night/week), Start reading the Christmas story on December 1 until Christmas Day, Add one ornament each Saturday night to the tree that has special meaning to your family.
When you rise: Use an Advent Calendar and open a door each morning before the day starts, Pray together for everyone you sent Christmas cards to (one person or family per morning/week), Put Christmas cards in your kids backpacks (you can get packs for $1 at Dollar Tree) with notes of blessing for them all season long.
(Want more ideas: Click here)
The reality is that the holidays are coming, will come, and will pass. Memories will be made. Life will happen. What January looks like for your family will in some way be dependent on what November and December looked like as they passed.
Don’t allow stress and shame steal the joy and opportunity of the season.
Realistically, no family can do it all. But realistically, we can all do something.
If we are unable to do “the big things,” let’s invite Jesus into all the little things and embrace the celebration for His sake. It will look different for each home, as it should. But in each home, Christ desires to be the respite, the rest, the peace no matter what season it is.
For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused, intergenerational ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.
About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.