Several Christmases ago, as I looked at the family calendar, my heart hardened with resentment. For a season said to bring joy and light and peace, it was only bringing me stress!
In addition to my overwhelmed schedule, the desire to provide gifts for our family led to financial stress. And then there was our marriage… Due to my husband’s PTSD and years of repeated struggle during the holiday season, we barely dared to hope for a completely peaceful Christmas.
Peace is what I desperately longed for, yet peace seemed distant and unreachable.
It shouldn’t be this way for a Christian woman, I thought.
I should be radiating peace now more than ever in anticipation of Jesus’ birthday! Christmas celebrations are supposed to be fun, not stressful, so why am I so discouraged and weary?
Friend, as much as Hallmark and Hollywood tell us otherwise, there’s nothing perfect about the Christmas season!
Problems don’t magically disappear, relationships often remain strained, and Christians, even strong Christians, still struggle with sin.
Because we live in a fallen world, sin and suffering taint our Christmas joy. Scripture speaks of how all of creation groans in anticipation of that day when Christ’s return ushers in the full completion of His love story and a restoration of peace on Earth, a perfection only possible when this world ends and eternity begins.
In the meantime, Christmas stirs up the longing for that completion, that elusive perfection we so desire. So as we observe the hard parts of our everyday lives side-by-side with our expectations of joy and light and love, we feel dissatisfied.
And praise God that we do, for this world is not our home! We’re meant for a glory this world can never provide, even at Christmas time.
7 Tips for a Peaceful Christmas
So how can we reconcile these feelings of longing and hope not yet realized with our ideals of a peaceful Christmas?
The answer is the same today as it was all those years ago – we look to Christ!
Adjust your expectations.
Part of our struggle for peace in the face of perfectionism is our tendency to set up unrealistic expectations for what Christmas looks like for our home, family, and even church! If you expect perfection this year, friend, you’re bound to be disappointed sooner rather than later. Perfection just isn’t possible!
Read about how overcoming expectations and finding peace in the longing is a good thing!
2. Rest in your work-in-progress status.
If you want a peaceful Christmas, friend, you must learn to approach the holidays with a confidence that is rooted in your position in Christ. If your confidence comes from how well-decorated your house is, how delicious your baked goods, how spiritual your advent plan, or how awe-inspiring your gifts, then your confidence rests on sinking sand rather than on the Solid Rock.
One broken decoration, one burnt cookie, one missed day of advent, or one failed gift – one less-than-perfect moment is enough to bring it all tumbling down.
3. Guard against strife in your marriage.
Did you know that January is the month when the most people file for divorce in America? Christmas places a burden of extra stress on marriage relationships if we let it! Even healthy marriages are at risk for extra bickering and disappointments that result when we realize our family is not Christmas-card perfect. Taking a family photo alone can be quite the ordeal, am I right?! 😉
The Enemy knows this to be true, and it seems he works overtime to create distance in families during the Christmas season. As Christians, we must be on guard, lest we allow him to rob us of our Christmas joy!
You can also read about how to survive Christmas as a hurting wife in my friend and co-author Rebekah’s piece here.
4. Focus on what your family really needs most.
In the commercialism of Christmas, we parents tend to worry over Christmas gifts. After all, we want to bless our children and demonstrate our love for them in the same way our Father God did for us – through a gift.
While there’s nothing wrong with gift-giving, if finances are tight or if children have asked for one of those impossible gifts that parents have no control over, we can easily feel like we’re unable to give our kids what the world would call a “good” Christmas. Feeling inadequate hardly leads to a peaceful Christmas, does it?
Whether your world has been turned completely upside down or this year has just been more challenging than most, rest assured that you can give your children what they really need this Christmas, friend!
5. Let go of Holiday guilt!
If you’re a woman of faith who has children, then you know the emphasis of keeping Christ in Christmas, right?
Good Christian mamas are supposed to purchase or create thoughtful gifts, maintain an atmosphere of peace in our homes, and participate in all of the joyous programs and celebrations, and on top of that we’re also supposed to teach our children the real meaning of Christmas at the same time, too.
Sometimes all of that pressure to perform adds up to a burden of holiday guilt, doesn’t it? And with it, our desire for a peaceful Christmas slips quietly away…
Read about overcoming guilt by simplifying advent here!
And follow my friend Aimee’s tips for simplifying all of your Christmas plans here. I love how she says she doesn’t have to make pies anymore! 😉
6. Look for peace in the right places.
A peaceful Christmas doesn’t happen by accident, friend.
No, a peaceful Christmas requires intentional action to keep ourselves grounded in God’s truth. Only then can we ignore the holiday hype in favor of realistic expectations in this season of joy! The good news is that there are practical steps we can take toward peace this year.
Read these tips on how to savor the season and have a meaningful Christmas here! (and this one comes with a FREE printable – my Christmas gift to you)
You can also find more practical tips on how to keep first things first this Christmas season for a more peaceful Christmas here (and another FREE printable!). I appreciate this author’s take on Jesus’ example in this area of Christian self-care.
7. Be prepared.
I’ll be honest, some of my holiday stress often comes from feeling unprepared and overwhelmed.
As a woman who continually over-estimates her ability to get things done, Christmas tends to sneak up on me!
If you’re like me, then you might appreciate this advice to organize and prepare ahead of time so you can experience less stress – that sounds like a good step toward a more peaceful Christmas!
The truth is you can have a more peaceful Christmas this year, friend, if you so choose!
Don’t buy into the holiday hype and set yourself up for failure.
Say no to busy schedules and fancy gifts. Say no to unrealistic expectations and the Enemy’s attacks on your character and your marriage. Say no to stress and holiday guilt.
Instead, say yes to Christ. He came so that you might have everlasting peace.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 (NIV)
Your hope and faith in Jesus is the best way to experience a peaceful Christmas!