The holidays are inherently busy for everyone, but it seems like for those of us in the ministry, it gets taken to a "whole-nutha" level!
A few years ago, we found ourselves miserable at Christmas because of all the commitments we had and we couldn't see leading our family down that path. So we started changing some things during the holidays. Our goal was to make sure our household was focusing on worship and one another more than we were the Christmas dramas and cookie parties.
Here's what we did to make this happen.
We started family advent.
Observing Advent can be done a lot of different ways. For us, starting five days before Christmas we spend time each night reading Scripture related to the coming of Christ, lighting the candle, and singing a Christmas carol together. We have five people in our household, so each of us takes a night and we conclude on Christmas day before any 'festivities' begin. In the midst of our busy-ness, this helps keep us grounded and focused the last few hurried days before Christmas.
We instituted a "one gift per family member" rule.
We decided if it took longer to open gifts than it did to worship, something was out of whack. And with five people in our household (plus grandparents, who we also asked to join the gift-giving limit), there's still an abundance. We also set a general price guideline to help everyone stay in budget AND enable us to give to other ministries during the holidays the way we wanted to. (The grandparents wouldn't cop to the $ limit, though!)
We protect our time.
We try to calendar one weekend in December that's completely off limits. We say no to everything that weekend (except mandatory school things). There's no reason for this except that if we don't do it, every waking minute is scheduled. On more than one occasion, we've found ourselves decorating for the holidays, finishing Christmas cards, or wrapping gifts that weekend because they were our only days at home the entire month of December!
We go "E" with our gift lists.
My 16-year-old gave us this idea, and we love it. During the year as he hears us say, "Oh I'd love to have that" or, "Isn't that thing awesome?" he makes a note of it on his iPod Touch. He never has to ask us what we want for Christmas. Hence, the focus isn't quite so much on gift giving as we go through the litany of items we might like to get. It happens in the background. Plus, the gifts are usually a complete surprise. We love it!
We changed the location of our tree.
It's a small thing, for sure. But we moved our Christmas tree from the main area of our house. Instead, we make the nativity scene the central decoration of Christmas. That way the "main thing" feels like the main thing!
It's a tough reality for those of us in ministry, but it's a reality nonetheless: if you let it, doing church work around Christmas can take most of your family's focus away from celebrating Christ together. We decided we didn't want our family to lose the focus and meaning of this sacred holiday. So, we're intentional about it. Our calendar won't rule us this Christmas!
Be intentional about leading your family in worship during the holidays. They're your most important congregation!