We are one week out from the big day. Decisions have been made, money has been spent, and we may be scrambling to get lots of last minute holiday chores done. In some ways, this Christmas is well underway. However, as I’ve talked to thousands of women about how to love the Christmas we have verses the Christmas we fantasize about, there are some things we can do even now to better love the Christmas right in front of us. Because the truth is our holiday season is made up of imperfect people in an imperfect world. The actual Christmas, the one we’re living out today, is not always Instagram-perfect, but it is always full of the hope God brought when he arrived in the manger over 2,000 years ago.

Let’s look at four common stress points for women leading up to Christmas.

Expectations

Holiday disappointment is usually the result of some type of unmet expectations.

We often don’t even realize we have expectations until they are unmet and we can feel the heartache begin to pulse. With days left to go before the 25th, it’s still not too late to identify what our hopes are for the coming week and evaluate how realistic these expectations are. Writing down our hopes is often a way to help us articulate them. Once we know what our expectations are, we can have conversations with others to clearly communicate and troubleshoot potential problems. We can also bring them before God and ask for his help in our heartwork.

Finances

Nothing says “extra stress” over the holiday season like money. If finances already feel tight, they feel especially tight with the added Christmas spending. In the final days of prep, it’s good to ask ourselves why we are buying “one last gift” for the person on our list. Often when we keep piling on the last-minute gifts (many times that we can’t afford), it is an indicator of some way we are trying to make up for pain in the relationship. This type of introspection can be uncomfortable, but it can also save us additional stress of spending beyond our capacity. We want our January selves to thank our December selves for the restraint we practiced these last few days of spending.

Schedule

This is the home stretch as far as prep time. We must remember that God did not come over two millennia ago so that we might collapse from exhaustion on the 26th of December. He came to refresh and save our souls.

Running around may be part of your days ahead, but here are some things you can ask yourself today that may help you slow down your pace, so that you can focus in on the miracle of Christ’s birth: Will this help me make a good memory or a difficult one?  If we are over extended, our memory making can backfire because we’re cranky and rushed. Is there something I can move to after the 25th? We often consider Christmas Day the biggie, but the truth is we can see people, make food, play games, even open gifts on the days following the 25th too. The traditional Christmas calendar counts out “12 Days of  Christmas”. The 25th is only Day 1.

Relationships

Just like with money, if a relationship feels strained all year, it can feel especially strained over the Christmas season. The holidays can bring up unhealthy patterns and relationships. We can be thrust into celebrations with people we’ve been able to avoid all year long.  How do we prepare for hard conversations or moments that will likely go down in the next week? Pray and ask God to give you discernment in conversations and a spirit of grace in word and tone. Remember the best in others. You may not agree with your uncle’s politics, but he is a faithful brother to your dad. Have an ally in the room that can step in if you need a break or will give you a wink when you need one. People are God’s gift to us. We may always seek his face in the faces of those around us (even if they are frustrating us in the moment.)

Though we can anticipate the holiday with hope or dread, or a little of both, where we focus our energy and attention is often the strongest indicator of how our actual Christmas will unfold. Centering on the good news that God came as a baby will leave us more satisfied than any gift or event.

It certainly will help minimize some of the stressors mentioned above. 

The best way to love the Christmas in front of us is to remember the miracle that God so loved the world He came for us.

“There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.” –Luke 2:8-14

 

Alexandra Kuykendall
Alexandra Kuykendall

A trusted voice for Christian women, Alexandra Kuykendall speaks on issues of how faith impacts everyday life. She is the Co-founder of The Open Door Sisterhood, a community of women working to be world changers for good right where they are. She co-hosts a podcast and retreat under the same name. Alex has authored four books: Loving My Actual Life, Loving My Actual Christmas, The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir, and her newest Loving My Actual Neighbor. Alex lives in the shadows of downtown Denver with her husband Derek and their four daughters. You can connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.

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