We are only weeks away from the start of the Christmas season. Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving (November 28th this year), and the stores are already filled with Christmas lights and candy canes, even as fall wreaths and pumpkins are still sitting on the shelves.

Christmas is meant to be a time of joyful celebration, but it can also bring anxiety and stress as we try to balance busy year-end schedules with meaningful holiday festivities. Sometimes we miss the best parts of Christmas – the hope, peace, joy, and love that Jesus offers – because we are so overwhelmed with the little things (hosting parties, baking cookies, and wrapping presents). And this is nothing new. Two thousand years ago, Martha knew exactly how we felt.

Jesus came to a village, and a woman called Martha welcomed him to her house. She had a sister by the name of Mary who settled down at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what he said. But Martha was very worried about her preparations and she burst in, saying, “Lord, don’t you mind that my sister has left me to do everything by myself? Tell her to get up and help me!”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, my dear, you are worried and bothered about providing so many things. Only a few things are really needed, perhaps only one. Mary has chosen the best part and you must not tear it away from her!” ( Luke 10:38-42, PHILLIPS)

Jesus gently reminds Martha that she was distracted by the details and missing the most important thing – sitting at Jesus’ feet. With this in mind, how can we start planning today so that we can be hospitable to our friends & family at Christmas, without missing the best part?

Advent is a season of preparation. And, by being deliberate about our preparations — both in our homes and our hearts — we can allow for the mental, emotional, and spiritual space to soak in our time with our Savior as we celebrate Him.


Look at your calendar now. Decide what you want to say “yes” to, and what you need to say “no” to. What’s important to you and your family? If walking your neighborhood to see the Christmas lights matters, then pick an evening and put it on the calendar. If you want to make a birthday cake for Jesus, pencil in the afternoon on December 23rd to enjoy baking. If you want to invite friends over to celebrate the season, save the date now.

Then prepare to say “no” to some things. If you need to decline the invite to your neighbor’s potluck, that’s okay. If you can’t make every friend’s party, politely RSVP your regrets. If you are asked to help with the office party, be ready to know what you are willing to joyfully do, and pass on what you cannot take on. It’s okay if you do not make it to every hot-cocoa-sipping/ugly-sweater-wearing/gingerbread-house-building event you are invited to. Perhaps that time is meant for your family to sit on the couch together and watch Elf or It’s a Wonderful Life! If things like baking, or carol singing, or movie nights are important to you, show that they have value by putting them on the calendar before it fills up!

And when you are planning ahead, leave some margin in your schedule, so you can unexpectedly say “Yes!” to some of those last-minute invitations (without ending up at the mall on December 24th because you still have gifts to buy)!


And speaking of shopping… The chaos of the mall, the stress of finding “the perfect gift,” and the financial impact of buying so many gifts at once can take a toll on us and distract from the joy of giving.

We often put so much pressure on ourselves when buying gifts that we may need a gentle reminder that it truly is the thought that counts! So, I encourage you, before you start clicking away on Amazon or zooming through the mall, start by praying. Ask God to reveal to you if there is anything special you could give this year to your loved ones that would meet their needs or add something special to their season. And the most important gift may be your prayers themselves! This is an opportunity to pray that your friends and family are also focused on Him and also not missing out on the best part of Christmas!

And can I share a practical tip? Some of the best gifts I’ve given – and received – are those of quality time with a friend or family member! If you start to feel like you are in a last-minute panic, instead of looking for something to fill a box, try gifting someone a future coffee date or dinner or movie night. There are so many boxes exchanged in December, sometimes it’s fun to give something that gets “opened” a few weeks or months down the road! (One year, we gifted our niece & nephews an Olympics watch party! We put a few fun red, white & blue items in a gift bag, but gave the real gift a few months later when they came for dinner and an evening of watching the games together!)


Most importantly, I invite you to choose a time and a place to sit with Jesus every day this Advent season. Maybe it’s a comfy chair in your living room in the evening when the house has quieted down. Maybe it’s at your kitchen table with a hot cup of coffee at the start of your day.

Whatever you decide to do in that time — read an Advent devotional, meditate on the Christmas story, or journal your way through the holidays — be ready to hear what the Lord has to say to you each day this Christmas season, so that you don’t miss out on the best part!

As the days grow shorter and Christmas Day approaches, don’t let the distractions of the celebrations pull you away from the One you are celebrating! We have an advantage over Martha… we know that guests are coming and that we need to be ready! So we can start to prepare now for our time with friends and family, for our gift-giving, and for our quiet times. And when it comes to those final crazy days before Christmas, give yourself grace and let go of the elaborate preparations that did not happen, and place yourself at Jesus’ feet.