Let’s set the scene. There’s a light snow dusting the ground. The fireplace is crackling and the smells coming from the kitchen are heavenly. Bing Crosby sings faintly in the background while the children play quietly upstairs. The packages under the tree are perfectly wrapped in paper that coordinates but doesn’t match too much. The bows are tied perfectly and the name tags are handmade and lettered. As the guests arrive, she floats effortlessly to the door, greeting them with a sweet smile and taking coats and presents as they enter her perfectly decorated and pristine home. Her table scape is on trend with the season and each place is perfectly set. As the night moves on, the conversation is lovely and the laughter is abundant. It’s the perfect night, never to be duplicated.
Never to be duplicated is right! Whose Christmas story is this, anyway? Holiday gatherings have me running around like a mad woman, sweating in places I can’t mention, yelling at my people and wrapping gifts on the floor in between checking the oven to see if the pre-made pie is done yet. While everyone arrives, usually later than planned, the kids begin to chase each other around, and things get crazy from there. Table conversations always seem to get tricky, especially when politics and religion come up. (I mean, could we please just talk about Aunt Fran’s recent wart removal again?)
Is this Christmas? Is this the way it’s supposed to feel? Burdensome and chaotic? Frantic and frazzled? I mean, where do I sign up for the warm, fuzzy, Jesus-filled holiday season? Where do I register to get the perfect Christmas in a subscription box? A choose-your-own Christmas adventure, Hallmark-movie style, sure would be nice this year!
Unfortunately, we can’t choose the perfect Christmas and have it served to us on our Pioneer Woman Christmas platter. But we can choose our own Christmas attitude. We can choose how we prepare our hearts, minds, souls and homes as we walk through the holiday season this year. It’s all about our willingness to slow down and connect. Our willingness to set the stage for a community-focused Christmas. What does “community at Christmas” mean to you?
Does it mean hosting a gorgeous gathering in your home?
Does it mean all the right food?
Does it mean family, friends, or both?
Does it mean a few people around a table, or a house full of bodies?
Does it mean a beautifully decorated table, front porch, living room and tree to offer a beautiful space for your guests?
Let’s just get one thing straight—the only thing perfect about Christmas is Jesus. It will always feel a bit crazier than we want, but I’ve got a few tips that can help us foster a more connected Christmas:
Let’s just get one thing straight—the only thing perfect about Christmas is Jesus,. It will always feel a bit crazier than we want, but I’ve got a few tips that can help us foster a more connected Christmas:
Guard Your Yes
You cannot be well-connected to your God and your people if you are so busy you can’t breathe or function. That’s what we do around the holidays. We say yes to all the things and then run around like crazy, trying to be women of our word. Not only will this stress us out and wear us out, but it will also cause us to be less than our best for our people, our community. So lay out all of your choices, block off time for white space (time in which you plan nothing) and protect that time. Do not let your fear of missing out override being a good steward of your time with the Lord and your time with your people. This will allow you to breathe, it will give you more opportunity to savor the time you have in community, and I truly believe it will help you thrive throughout the busy holiday season.
Make a plan to put your phones away at holiday gatherings. Whether you are the hostess or the attendee, leave your phone in your purse or car. It will be different, but it will be lovely. Phones on tables are tempting; phones in pockets are distracting. You cannot be present with others while your eyes are on your phone. Maybe even challenge to your guests to see who can go the longest without their phone. Set up a “phone check” in at the door (you can find lots of ideas on this). However you go about it, remember we are a very lonely people group here on this planet, even though we are very electronically connected. Look someone in the eyes this holiday season and combat that loneliness with your uninterrupted presence.
We are so used to rushing on to the next thing. The dishes, the next activity, whatever it is that rushes us from one thing to the next. Allow time to sit and savor the time and meal together. Breaking bread in community is not only biblical, but it is also a spiritual, life-bringing process. Sit around the table or fireplace together and try to breathe it all in. Create an environment that allows for conversation and connection. This will look different for each gathering but I want to help you with this. You can download some Christmas Conversation Cards here for free. (Sometimes coming up with things to talk about is hard; my hope is that this will spur on fun conversations around your table this holiday season.) These cards are one way to help us slow down and talk.
Guard your yes.
These three things will help us have a more connected (though still imperfect) Christmas season. Remember, Christmas is about Christ coming to be with us. It’s all about connection. Don’t miss the forest for the Christmas trees, friends. Join us over the next few weeks as we dive deeper into Community over Christmas.