It’s time to get ready for Christmas.
Decorations, trees, lights and gifts are prominently displayed in the stores encouraging us to buy early and be ready for the consumer frenzy to follow. So how do we keep our focus on what really matters during this season? Here are some practices I have found helpful.
1. Find Your Centre
I start preparing in November with a short practice that helps me center my life each day on the indwelling presence of God. This is particularly important during busy seasons of distraction such as the lead-up to Christmas.
I sit with my eyes closed for a couple of minutes, taking deep breaths in and out. Sometimes I read through one of these breathing prayers or a centering prayer:
I centre myself today
on the life-giving
presence of God.
I centre myself today
on the love-bringing presence of Christ.
I centre myself today
on the faith-building presence of God.
One in Three,
Three in One,
I breathe in your presence,
and centre myself today,
Reciting prayers aloud engages our whole being at a deep level. The words resonate throughout our bodies and lodge deep in our hearts.
I then ask: What would I like God to accomplish in my life this Christmas?
[Tweet “What would I like God to accomplish in my life this Christmas?”] It takes only a couple of minutes, but using this exercise at the beginning and end of each day helps me establish important priorities for the season without feeling stressed out and pressured.
How would you like to draw close to Christ this Christmas?
What is one practice you can establish now to help accomplish this?
2. Declutter Your Space
The stores are right: we do need to begin to prepare early for Christmas. But the place to start is not with buying more stuff. Rather, it’s in establishing a special, sacred space for the season.
Is there a place you like to use each day for your spiritual practices? Sit in this space for a while and relax. Are there objects that catch your attention and draw you away from the presence of God? Does it contain clutter that distracts you and makes you think about your next shopping trip, eating binge or party plan? If possible, remove these items.
Now think about what makes your place comfortable as a refuge for prayer. Do you need to add a candle or other symbol that reminds you of the purpose of your journey toward Christmas and the birth of Christ?
What are one or two things you can do to create a more God-focused, relaxing and uncluttered sacred space?
3. Celebrate Advent & Create a Visual Focus for Celebration
This has become a very serious task for me. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the birth of Christ. Advent wreaths and candles are the traditional symbols, but I like to create an Advent garden, painting rocks with words specific to each week as reminders of the real meaning for the season. Other possibilities include an Advent/Christmas art journal, collage, or colouring book (we created this one last year to go along with the Advent devotional A Journey Toward Home).
What is one object you already have or can create that reminds you of Christ’s birth?
How might you use this during Advent to help you maintain your focus on the birth of Christ?
4. Declutter Your Time
Now is the time to take control of your schedule. Before you fill your calendar with busy Christmas events and trips to the mall, schedule some alone time for renewal and refreshment. So often self care is at the bottom of our list of priorities during this season when it should be at the top. What most refreshes you and draws your attention back to God and the real meaning of Christmas?
[Tweet “What most refreshes you and draws your attention back to God and the real meaning of Christmas?”] What most refreshes me and keeps my focus on Christ are the five minutes of centred prayer each morning and evening plus a day retreat in December. If we don’t get these types of practices on our schedules early they’ll never happen, and this Christmas season will become yet another stressed-out Christmas season.
What is one practice you need to get on your calendar now for the Advent and Christmas season to help you maintain an ordered and balanced approach to the season?
5. Establish a Reading Discipline
There are an amazing array of Advent devotionals and scripture reading plans available for the season. My husband Tom and I love to read the daily lectionary, but each year Godspace posts a list of additional possibilities we also choose from and enjoy.
What Bible readings would you like to institute during the Advent/Christmas season?
What other reading(s) might assist you in your journey toward the manger?
6. Maintain a Sabbath
This is a practice that should be protected. There might be special activities you want to incorporate to reflect the season, but whatever you do, don’t let go of your habit.
What steps do you need to take in order to protect your Sabbath day during the Advent/Christmas season?
7. Celebrate Your Faith, Not the Culture
Christmas is for celebrating our faith, not the secular culture. Perhaps you could make your faith more central by exchanging gifts on St. Nicholas Day rather than Christmas Day, carolling around your neighbourhood on Christmas Eve, planning a day to give away Christmas, or working in a homeless shelter for a night or two. There are endless possibilities that help us maintain a Christ-centred focus. You might also like to consider an alternative gift-giving Christmas as we suggest in Helping Your Children Give Back This Christmas
What is one meaningful way to focus your attention on Christ this Christmas?
[Tweet “What is one meaningful way to focus your attention on Christ this Christmas?”] We don’t need to allow the pressures of the culture to consume us this Christmas. We can take back our time and our resources and discover the joy of a true Christ-centred celebration.
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