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It’s a crazy, wonderful time of year. How might we keep our heads and hearts on the one who is the real wonder?

Remember the season is more than the sentimentality

This is perhaps a spin-off of the War on the War on the War on Christmas (or whatever it’s called these days). In the same way that this time is not about consumerism, neither is it about the soppiness of even the best Christmas cards or brimming stockings. It is certainly a season for joy, hope, and an appropriately-spiritualized rejuvenation with friends and family at the thought of the Boy of Bethlehem, but Christmastime is not something to be overly-romanticized. The Light of the World came into a dirty world and was laid in the straw of a manger. His attendants were animals, his weary and travel-worn parents, and raggedy shepherds—and the angels of God. Be sentimental, but not schmaltzy, about the Christ-child. Celebrate with overflowing joy, but never forget the harsh, cold reality of the lost world Jesus entered to find, rescue, and redeem.

Value people more than presents

Christmas is not about gift-giving—that’s a bonus. That add-on shouldn’t be a distraction from the people with whom we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Be excited about receiving cool things, but be more excited about the people you’re receiving things from and all the others you spend time with this season. Family and friends are in your life for a reason. Value them by being generous with your time and gifts, serve them with your strength and mind, and take on the humility that Christ adopted by taking on human flesh. Whatever we do for the least of Christ’s brothers, we do for him.

When Christmas comes up, don’t shy away from bringing up Christ

Post-Thanksgiving, we talk about Christmas all the time. Christmas parties. Christmas break. Christmas gifts. Christmas songs. Christmas decorations. It begs the question, with the incessant talk of Christmas, how often do we talk about Christ? The two are inseparable. The Reason and The Season. And yet, for being so indivisible, we rarely unite them. Let’s not be afraid to make the leap. And on a regular basis. No need to force Jesus into all your Christmas conversations, but we can’t say he doesn’t belong. The opportunities are obvious and plenty, so be open to turning conversations about Christmas into conversations about the incarnate Christ.

Know that not everything has to go perfectly

Christmastime is swamped. Family shindigs and old-friend extravaganzas for a week straight. The calendar is jam packed. Running errands, finding and wrapping gifts, baking cookies, driving to and from a dozen get-togethers, attending church services, singing songs, decorating and undecorating. When the itinerary is so full and so well-planned, inevitably something won’t go according to plan. Let that be okay. The thousand activities of the season aren’t the point of Christmas. Jesus didn’t set aside all the glories and comforts of heaven, become a totally dependent baby, and suffer the pains and temptations of humankind so that we could go to Christmas parties. So when the blizzard gets in the way of travel plans or someone bails or the food doesn’t turn out, don’t sweat it. Dwell on the majesty of the newborn King, not on the majesty of your schedule.

Don’t get caught up in the busyness

In all our tooing-and-froing, take the time to be still in the presence of the Lord. Shepherds were busy too. The magi had kingdoms to serve and accounts to keep, but they left the busyness and grandeur of their everyday lives to come adore the Star. I’m excited to enjoy all the parties, movies, feasts, and fellowship of Christmas, but I mustn’t neglect that coming to God requires no travel. Only an open heart. Maybe in the silence. Maybe alone. If we’re too busy to worship the Incarnate Deity, we’re way too busy. Don’t get lost in plans; get found in the one who makes all those plans worthwhile.

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