six steps to a guilt-free Christmas – #TellHisStory
In our early years as a family, I transformed our house into a winter wonderland every Christmas.
I set up tiny ceramic villages on fake snow. I baked (and burnt) dozens of cookies, mailed an avalanche of Christmas cards, purchased far too many gifts, and decked the halls to the point of exhaustion.
If the weary world rejoiced on Christmas morning, I was too weary to notice.
It went on like that for years, despite my best intention to make Christ the center of our Christmas.
Then, one year, it seemed like everyone I knew was talking about a simplified Christmas. They were cutting back, to keep the focus rightly on Jesus.
Suddenly, I felt as if I had been doing Christmas all wrong.
I resolved to make big changes. Most of the decorations stayed in boxes that year. I didn’t send a single card, or bake/burn a single cookie. The whole house felt unusually quiet—too quiet. When Christmas morning arrived, I wasn’t weary. But I felt like I had missed something. And I was right. In my well-intentioned effort to celebrate the “Reason for the Season,” I had excised important pieces of our family’s celebration.
And once again, I felt as if I did Christmas all wrong.
I needed to find balance, and the next year I did. We began to celebrate Christmas in a way that spotlighted the Star of the story, but didn’t cut out the fun parts we all enjoyed.
You might be reading this today thinking that you’re doing Christmas all wrong.
You’re wondering if you’ve over-done it—or under-done it.
Maybe you are the woman who is a decorator at heart. You love to deck the halls, Pinterest-style—but your friends roll their eyes and call you “over-the-top.” You’re left second-guessing your Christmas.
Or, maybe you’re the woman who forgot to bring the juice to the third-grade Christmas party and had to wrap all the family presents in leftover gift bags from the baby shower. Your Christmas lights are always tangled up, and so are your insides.
Come Christmas morning, we can all feel a little bit weary—like we missed it. We believe falsely that “we’ve done it all wrong.”
Friend, lean in close, and listen. Let this Christmas be a new kind of Christmas. Let’s be done with the high expectations and self-accusations. Let’s make a declaration: To live a Guilt-Free, PreApproved Christmas.
Truth is, you have nothing to prove to anyone, because you are already approved in Christ. You are PreApproved! And since this is His birthday, we are free to live out that truth.
Six Steps Toward a Guilt-Free, PreApproved Christmas
1 – Set one “guiding principle” for your Christmas season. Write it down in one sentence.
Your guiding principle might be as straightforward as this: “I want to celebrate Christ’s birth in ways that honor Him and bring delight to my loved ones.” Or, maybe you suffered great loss this year. Your guiding principle might read like an honest confession: “I just need Jesus to help me survive this holiday without the one I love at our table.” Set your guiding principle, and then let your principle guide you with all of your Christmas decisions.
2 – Banish the “shoulds.” You now have a guiding principle. That eliminates the pressure of “I should probably bake cookies.” Or, “I should buy one more gift.” All the parts of your Christmas—your Bible reading, your gift lists, your greeting cards, your Griswold-esque decorating techniques—can be viewed through the prism of your guiding principle. If sending out Christmas cards to everyone you know fits under your guiding principle—and doesn’t stress you out—by all means, start stamping envelopes. But if you hear yourself say “I should,” that’s a red flag.
3 – Do what you do with great love. God made you as you are for a reason. We need you. We need your creative gift-wrapping ideas, your ridiculously fun games at the office party, your trumpet in the church’s brass choir, your candle in the sanctuary, your famous fruit cake, and your quiet prayers that no one else hears. Your kids love your Elf on the Shelf shenanigans, and the neighbor lady wouldn’t get that “blessing basket” if it weren’t for you. Listen to the desires of your heart, and hear how they’re guiding you into a celebration that reflects your passions while honoring our Savior.
4 – Banish comparison. Your girlfriends’ Christmas is going to look different from yours. Celebrate the fact that she’s PreApproved, too. That means she might bring a bag of Doritos to the fancy Christmas party. Be cool with it. Or it might mean that her Pinterest-perfect house isn’t an attempt to intimidate you, but an honest effort to celebrate Him.
5 – Banish guilt. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). So many women feel guilty for doing too much, or too little. Ask yourself: Am I feeling conviction, or condemnation? There’s a difference. If we carry guilt into our Christmas, we’re forgetting that Christ came to release us from it.
6 – Remember the Reason. This is Jesus’ party. And Christmas is Jesus, saying His unflinching yes over you—for PreApproved you! No matter how you decorate the mantle, He is always the Life of the party. And He has come to give life to all the people at the party.
Look now. See how the Life of the party holds out this gift: Himself.
And the gift tag? It has your name on it.
“See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” ~ Isaiah 49:16
If you liked this post, you’ll love Jennifer’s book, Love Idol.
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Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Amanda. I love this line about her beautiful grandma, “She didn’t leave a whole lot behind, but that’s only because she spent her whole life giving it away.” Find Amanda here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer
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This is WONDERFUL, Jennifer! So helpful to have these wise, guiding thoughts as we begin the Advent season. My guiding principle will be: to celebrate Christ’s birth in ways that honor him and bring attention to Him through the delights we enjoy–especially to those family members and friends who do not know Him yet.
I love your guiding principle, Nancy!
Your words are a breath of pine-scented air! Especially the part about doing what you do with great love. It’s so tempting to look at what we do (or have done) and to condemn it as “wrong.” Thanks for this reminder that, in Christ, we are preapproved to celebrate His birth in keeping with the way He made us.
So grateful that the message came through, Michele. Thanks for stopping by.
Great ideas and good truths to reflect on. Love the idea of a guiding principle…I’m going to reflect on that one!
Let me know if you pick a guiding principle, Anna. I’d love to hear.
I have, finally! I’ve decided my guiding principle is to keep my eyes open, expecting and looking for His Presence in each day:
Matthew 6:22-26The Message (MSG)
22-23 “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
Thank you for your encouragement.
This is great, Anna! I am going to share your guiding principle with 280 women at a Christmas dinner and keynote address tonight! Thank you!
You’re very welcome! Have a lovely evening. Praying for God’s blessing upon the night and through the words you share.
I love the idea that this is Jesus’ party! Amen to that. My guiding principle is that I want to BEHOLD Him, open my doors wider to welcome Him in, and to slow down and savor life with my family.
That’s a great principle to live by, all through the year. Thank you, Betsy.
I love the idea that we are already “pre-approved”…no high expectation bars that I need to hurdle. Also needed the reminder to kick the “guilts” and the “shoulds” to the curb…not needed this Christmas. In about an hour or more my husband and I are going to do our first Advent reading together from Ann Voskamp’s “The Greatest Gift”. Looking forward to experiencing the anticipation of Christ’s birth. Thanks so much for this timely post!
Hey Bev! Have you read Ann’s book before? It’s so lovely. I need to bring it out again this year. Thanks for the nudge.
Yes and amen! I appreciate this encouragement today. There is normally a challenge of some sort every Christmas season and this one is no exception. This time finances have taken a huge hit and out of necessity we have to pare down quite a bit.
But – praise God – He IS the Life of the party! 🙂 I was meditating here this morning … “love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.” Deut 30:20 NIV
In some of our leaner years, we’ve had our most meaningful celebrations of Christ’s birth. It helped us refocus. I hope you feel as if a burden has been liften, even when money is tight. Thanks for sharing, Calista.
Yes! I’m all for banishing the guilt and finding balance this Holiday season. I think it’s the only way to not only survive it, but thrive through it.
Yay, Alecia! Do you have any steps you would add, to have a guilt-free Christmas?
I love being challenged and your words challenge us to let go of what isn’t important but hold onto those pieces that are developing your family legacy this holiday. And yes, knowing I am preapproved takes a great weight off as I am leaning into simple and memorable this Christmas.
fantastic! I needed this as I keep telling myself I’m not going to do Christmas the old way where shopping feels so joyless..so I love your idea of coming up with a sentence of intention! And I’ll take your advise if I don’t do Christmas perfectly..I won’t feel an ounce of guilt. The intention (seeking Christ) will guide the way!
“Do what you do with great love!”….this one is my favorite. I want to be present in each moment and not be derailed by expectations!!! And I want to do it with GREAT love! THANKS!
And with those words a weight fell away from my shoulders. I love how God uses you, Jennifer!
Blessings and smiles,
I kept hearing, as if it were angels saying, “Peace on earth, good will…” as I read this. Thank you. This year especially, we can use some the peace that comes with knowing we’re Preapproved. Merry Christmas
Jennifer, such wonderful steps especially #1 – Set one guiding principle. I am so glad I stopped here today.
Jennifer, What a beautiful message! I just got off the phone with one of my best friends, and I am sending her this message right now – I know it’ll bless her as it blessed me. Thank you for allowing me to link my blog post here! God bless,
Jennifer, God bless you for sharing this. For years, I raced around trying to do it all. Two years ago, I sat in my living room on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my traditional decorating day, and couldn’t do a thing. All day. When I finally posted about it on FB (a what in the world is wrong with me! post), dear sisters in Christ told me it was okay, that if my body was telling me enough, that was God telling me to “be still”. It was a transforming moment for me. This year, my daughter, who is back home from college now, was going through the mourning of a relationship that started Thanksgiving weekend last year that she thought was going to be very special and quickly flamed out. It was so wonderful to give her the same gift I received two years ago and tell her whatever she wanted to do was okay.
I love how you ended this post, reminding us of how Jesus is the greatest gift and yes, He truly is the reason we celebrate…wishing you and your family much joy this Christmas 🙂
Thank you, Jennifer, for this post. I’m hoping it will help me to be set free from the guilt. I want to have a simple Christmas and I hope the rest of the family will understand.
I just commented on someone’s blog about a perfect balance between holy and fun! That is what I now strive for. Great post!
I love this. So much freedom here! Thank you for sharing your heart so we can see more of His!
Thank you for the strategies to keep Christmas balanced–it’s what I seek in my life (and I am NOT Martha Stewart).
I am so happy to read this today…and looking forward to a Pre-Approved Christmas!
Oh, I can identify with you in the Christmases done wrong, Jennifer. I think though, it is a process of learning through the mistakes though, learning as we do when time marks our calendars…and we start to see the power of loving the journey Christmas provides. It is a sacred solemn place that we get to travel and take our family and friends along if we want, one of wonder and hope and when we see that, it changes the whole dynamic. 🙂
I’m the woman who sometimes does Christmas, but sometime does not…and I don’t feel at all guilty on those years I do not. The high point of Christmas for me is the Christmas Eve service that I put together for our church. It centers me on Jesus. #6 – Remember the Reason….that is the one that helps me have a guilt-free Christmas.