I love to bake!
On Wednesday, I spent some time picking out some of the recipes for my Christmas baking. One of my specialties is my turtle cheesecake. It’s a simple recipe but every ingredient is important for assuring that my cheesecake is going to turn out right every time.
A lot of things in life are the same way.
Using the proper ingredients can help you to be successful in reaching your goals and making your dreams come true.
The Christmas season can be just like that – use the right ingredients, and you can have a merry Christmas.
In today’s post, I’m sharing three key ingredients that will help you do just that.
Christmas time can be stressful in so many ways. It can play havoc with your mental health. It can totally wreck your budget. It can bring chaos to family relationships.
No wonder some people want to just skip the season and get to New Years.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
As a Christian, you can make the season a happy one for you and your family. There are three things that you can focus on to take your Christmas season from a stressful one to a more peaceful one.
3 Key Ingredients
Here are your three key ingredients that will help you do that.
Key #1 – Posture
Remember that as a Christian, we shouldn’t be approaching the season the same way that the world does. People who approach Christmas as simply a time for gift giving and parties focus on the commercialism of the season.
But the believer’s approach is different.
We’re preparing for the greatest gift that’s ever been given by our heavenly father. So, our first step in this process is to look at the posture of our hearts. A heart focused on reverencing God, looks beyond the material things that we focus on at Christmastime – the gifts, the parties, the food.
Instead, we humbly anticipate the real reason for the season – the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
Several years ago, I made the unwise decision to leave all my Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve.
I was living in Atlanta at the time and one of the biggest malls, actually, probably the biggest mall in the city was Lenox Square. So, I got to the mall about 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon and it was a madhouse. It took forever to find a parking space. And when I finally got inside the mall, it was wall-to-wall people. You could barely find what you were looking for and trying to get help from a salesperson was like searching for the holy grail. It was awful and it was close to 9:00 before I got out of there.
I still remember that little episode because it was a horrible way to spend the day before Christmas.
First of all, I should never have waited until the last minute to go shopping. I caused myself unnecessary stress and when I think about it, the stress started long before Christmas Eve. I was so busy running around trying to check things off my to-do list, that I really wasn’t focused on the real meaning of the season.
But more importantly, that time took time away from me focusing on God and His wonderful gift. Because the truth of the matter is not only should we celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ, but we should also celebrate the gift-giver, God the Father.
The term “posture” means to position, especially strategically. That usually refers to the position of your body, but it also refers to the position of your heart and mind.
If we want to have a merry Christmas season, we have to view the season strategically and intentionally as a gift from our heavenly Father. That will always lead us back to Him.
Matthew 22:37 says, “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ‘”
What better time than the Christmas season to truly practice that?
Key Ingredient #2 – Purpose
In the Peanuts A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown wants to know what Christmas is all about.
He’s depressed by the Christmas season because it’s so commercial, but cheers up when Lucy asks him to direct the Christmas pageant. But the bossy Lucy doesn’t allow him to do much directing and sends Charlie off to buy an aluminum Christmas tree. Instead, he picks out a sad little fir tree, which everyone makes fun of.
Linus then makes a speech about the true meaning of Christmas. The Peanuts gang is moved by his words and transforms the little tree by adding beautiful decorations, and Charlie Brown finally celebrates a merry Christmas.
What most people remember about this episode is Linus’ speech. He walks to center stage, asks for a spotlight and recites the annunciation to the shepherds – straight out of the gospel of Luke. He ends his speech with, “”That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
The world has tried to take Jesus out of Christmas.
But for Christians, that’s not an option.
The whole purpose of celebrating Christmas is to celebrate Jesus’ birth. The same way that our posture should be focused on God, we need to have a pre-determined mindset to purposefully focus on Jesus at Christmas time.
Luke 2:11 says, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Everything else is added by us. Which also means that we can subtract those things that aren’t working for us. And anything that takes our focus off Jesus being the reason for Christmas is something we need to subtract.
Now, let’s move to the third key, which is the one that usually provides the most stress, but once you get it under control, your chances of having a merry Christmas season goes way up.
Key #3 – People
There are a lot of Christmas movies out there and one of my favorites is This Christmas from 2007, starring Loretta Devine, Delroy Lindo, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Christ Brown.
It’s Christmastime and family matriarch Ma’Dere Whitfield (Loretta Devine) assembles her large family for their first reunion in four years. However, family ties show signs of strain when various secrets come to light, especially concerning Marine Claude’s (Columbus Short) true military status, Quentin’s (Idris Elba) debts and teenage Baby’s (Chris Brown) secret plans to become a singer.
Since it’s a Christmas movie, everything turns out well in the end, but it was stressful just watching all the shenanigans of those family members.
That’s just a movie, but sometimes real life can be like that, too.
The people closest to us can often be the ones who bring the chaos to our lives. And I have to mention that we allow this because we either haven’t set any boundaries or we allow them to cross our boundaries.
Either way, the result is the same – stressed out, frustrated, and praying for Christmas time to be over.
Now, before I talk about that some more, I do want to address the fact that sometimes the Christmas is a hard time for people because they’ve lost some of the people who have meant the world to them. There are no quick fixes for missing loved ones who have passed away or the ones who are still here, but you may be estranged from. Sometimes, the only way to have any joy when either of these scenarios is the case, is to focus on my first two key ingredients – posture and purpose.
But for the rest of us, there are some things we should keep in mind when dealing with the people in our lives at Christmastime.
Remember when I just talked about subtracting things from your life that hinder you from focusing on the purpose for the season which is Jesus’s birth? When it comes to people who stress you out and frustrate you, what is it about them that causes a problem? Is this something you can talk to them about?
One of the things that used to stress me out was trying to buy the perfect Christmas gift for everyone. So, years ago, I made the decision to stop buying Christmas gifts – and I told everyone else not to buy me any either. I still buy my mother a gift because, well, she’s my mother. But everyone else, family and friends, gets a fantastic birthday gift from me. My gift spending is spread out over the year and my budget isn’t wrecked in December.
Remember, Christmas shouldn’t just be about presents – p r e s e n t s.
God gave us the gift of His presence in Jesus Christ. Jesus is Emanuel – God with us.
Let’s remember to focus on His presence – p r e s e n c e.
Then there’s Christmas dinner for family and/or friends. Now, if you love making a huge dinner for family and friends, that’s great. But if you don’t really enjoy doing that, try something different.
For instance, in my family, we spread out cooking assignments for Christmas dinner. My brothers are in charge of the meats. My mother and sister-in-laws cook the sides. And I’m in charge of desserts.
This way, no one gets overwhelmed by being responsible for the entire meal. It also makes it easier for my family to spend more quality time together.
Not only should we focus on Jesus’ presence, but we should also focus on being present with the important people in our lives at Christmastime.
The Message version of Ecclesiastes 5:19 says, “God deals out joy in the present, the now.” Let’s focus on the joy of being present with those we love when we get together.
One other thing I want to talk about concerning people are the Christmas parties.
If you love going to every party you’re invited to during the Christmas season, go for it!
But if you’re anything like me, I only say yes to one or maybe two invitations.
Who says that you have to go just because you were invited? I’m giving you permission today to say no to holiday gatherings that drain you or that stress you out. And you don’t have to do a whole lot of explaining. You have other plans. And maybe those plans are to spend a quiet evening at home.
Because the truth of the matter is, you’re in charge of your mental and emotional well-being.
Don’t give that power to anyone else.
You can love someone, genuinely enjoy being around them, and still not want to go to their Christmas party.
It really is okay to say no.
So, let’s review.
The three key ingredients to having a merry Christmas season are:
- Posture – approach the season with a posture of focusing on God, the gift giver.
- Purpose – Jesus really is the reason for the season; focus on this extraordinary gift.
- People – Intentionally make being present with the people you love a priority, insted of presents, food, and parties.
Make these three things your focus, and your Christmas season can be a merrier one.