Becky May has decided to leave guilt at the door in the run up to Christmas
I wonder how your December is going? Anything like mine:
December 1st: Postal strikes mean the sticker advent calendars haven’t arrived on time, you wake up early in the morning when you realise you didn’t order the Jesse tree ornaments you promised yourself you would this year, and totally forgot to spend the year accumulating lego pieces for the self-designed lego nativity advent calendar.
December 3rd: Discover you could have read the whole of Luke’s gospel in advent, a chapter a day and decide you could try to catch up.
December 5th: forget to light advent candle.
December 7th: forget to blow out advent candle.
December 8th: Realise you couldn’t try to catch up with daily readings of Luke.
December 10th: Fetch Christmas decorations out and discover three other advent countdown decorations, complete with daily Bible readings.
December 11th: Miss the Christingle service due to a birthday party.
December 12th-16th: Spend the whole week running around to school events, after school end of term concerts, club parties, Christmas fayres…. Forget the candle, the readings, pretty much everything!
The list could go on, and no doubt will.
As parents, we’re really good at guilt, aren’t we? From the moment we are handed a tiny baby we worry we are holding them wrongly, feeding them wrongly, that we’ll choose the wrong school… As Christian parents, we worry whether we’ll raise them in a godly way so that they’ll know and love Jesus for themselves. As Christian parents at Christmas we can have a whole load more worry and guilt to way us down; will we keep the focus on Jesus, will we be able to share the story in a meaningful way with them, will we be able to share God’s love for others this year, will we invite those we should to the carol service, will we even make it to the carol service?
Of course, it is right that we think about all of these things, but the worry and the guilt is not welcome. That is not of God.
I don’t know about you, but this December seems particularly frenetic to me. The lockdowns and restrictions of the past two Christmases when we had more time to ourselves, but less places to go are a distant memory, as invitations and expectations seem raised this year and while it’s absolutely wonderful to be able to enjoy these experiences once again, it can leave our heads spinning and all the choice available to us; how do we navigate this season in a way that keeps Jesus centre stage, loses the parent-guilt and doesn’t cause exhaustion or frustration?
Here are my three simple top tips which I will try to follow this year:
1. Decide what is really important to you as a family and prioritise that.
All the options available can be rather overwhelming. There are 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week and time isn’t elastic in December. You cannot do everything. Let some of it go and choose to focus on the things that are most important to your family. Incidentally, this doesn’t mean choosing your fourth carol service of December over the family party. The time with family is important and the choices available to you may all be valid; you may just need to make some difficult choices. But when you have; enjoy the choice you have made, knowing that this was more important for you. When in doubt, a reminder of the good ol’ WWJD? question may help.
2. Do one thing intentionally.
I can be full of good intentions; Jesse trees, lego nativity scenes, daily teatime family devotions. These intentions can all be great, but if we don’t actually do them, that’s exactly what they remain; a good intention. Often we fail because we aim for too much. It is better for us to choose one thing, perhaps something you do every year, or something special for this year alone, that you will choose to do; a Christmas eve service, a Christmas morning service, a birthday cake for Jesus instead of (or alongside) Christmas pudding… There are umpteen possibilities, but don’t get bogged down with the options, just be intentional about doing one thing.
3. Be present in the moment.
There seems to be no greater moment in the year to feel the closeness of heaven to earth. Jesus is on our lips as we sing, as we read, as we pray, not just at church or at home but in the unexpected places too; the school carol service, the singing outside the village pub, the nativity scene in the shopping centre. If we tie ourselves up in knots about what we should be doing, we can miss the opportunities that present themselves in the normal walking around of life. When you’re with your children, notice the things they are noticing. Ask the Holy Spirit to nudge you to see what it happening and take the opportunity to talk about those things. We can have some of our greatest God-conversations when we just make ourselves available to him and to those he loves.
So have a wonderful Jesus-filled Christmas, and leave the guilt at the door.