It is beginning to look a lot like Advent here at this old house. The Advent wreath is out and lit each week. The lights are up and decorations are gradually making their appearance. The empty stable is awaiting the figures that are moving towards it. Batches of peanut brittle are being made and forced amaryllis bulbs are working their way into the light. Advent and Christmas music plays regularly. Yes, it is definitely Advent.

The theme of preparation and “stay awake” runs throughout the daily and Sunday readings for this time of year. We, who sit in darkness spiritually, mentally, physically, are asked to have hope, love, peace and joy with each succeeding week’s candle lighting. Many of us are also trying to prepare and “stay awake” late at night getting through our do-to lists. At times, getting everything done in time seems impossible!Image result for free photo Advent wreath two candles

Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” So says the Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland.” What impossible things do you believe before breakfast? Or have we all given up on believing in the impossible? The impossible reconciliation, the impossible healing, the impossible resolution. In the readings for Advent, we hear that God is in the business of making the impossible possible. As we work our way through endless lines and lists, we may want to stop and wonder if a messenger from God, an angel in disguise, might be standing next to us, even bringing impossibly good news. In the midst of the commercial holiday season, can we allow ourselves to believe that with God all things are possible?

Another theme we hear about throughout Advent is barrenness, the opposite of what the advertisements are trying to tell us. But Advent tells us this is a barrenness that can be filled in seemingly impossible ways. That is why the message of Christmas speaks of and to both joy and sorrow, loss and fulfillment.

Hannah and Elizabeth were barren and yet were given sons by God in seemingly impossible ways: Hannah bore Samuel, the powerful OT prophet, and Elizabeth bore John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, whose prophesying began in Elizabeth’s womb. In response to John’s leaping in Elizabeth’s womb, Mary sang her song that begins “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Throughout the centuries, the Church sings it, the Magnificat, every evening at Vespers.

Hannah also sings in response to God’s good and impossible provision. Her song is sometimes called the Old Testament’s Magnificat. Compare her song found in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 with Mary’s found in Luke 1:46-55. God is in the business of taking barren places and people and filling them in surprising ways.

We are also invited to reflect on where we might be barren. Where has the desert set into our lives, our relationships with others and/or with God? Which line of Hannah’s or Mary’s song of victory speaks most to us. The message of Advent embraces everyone everywhere in all circumstances. That is impossibly good news indeed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel free to use this with my name and copyright as well as “Used By Permission” on it. Also, I would love to hear where you used it and any feedback you might have!

A FAMILY CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE

By Valerie E. Hess copyright 2009

Prelude

Welcome

Invocation

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Opening Carol: O Come, All Ye Faithful (Could use this time to set up the front with three chairs facing the congregation but set side-by-side as if they were a pew, if you prefer not to have the chairs in place before the service starts.)

Prayer

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First Lesson—Isaiah 9:2-7

Congregational Song:  On Christmas Night, verses 1 and 3

 

At the front, raised, are three chairs set together like a pew. Three people are ushered down the aisle during the singing of verses “On Christmas Night” (Sussex Carol). The implication is that they are attending the Christmas Eve service and are being shown to their seats. The “usher” could hand them a bulletin and a hymnal as part of their entrance.  At the end of the hymn, one turns to the others and says:

Person 1. Wait a minute. I don’t get all of this light and dark business. If you mean the candlelight contrasting with the dark church or the dark of this night contrasting with the daylight of tomorrow, then I understand. But who were these people sitting in great darkness? And what light shined on them?

Person 2.  It’s just a Christmas tradition, that’s all. What would Christmas Eve be like without candles and the familiar carols and the traditional readings?  It would be like 4th of July without fireworks or Thanksgiving without turkey.

Person 3.  Is that all Christmas is about? Is it really just tinsel and lights? Is it just a holiday we spend one month getting ready for and then it is over in a day? What about the birth of Jesus? What about God sending us a Savior to rescue us from the darkness of our lives?

Person 2. Oh, yeah Jesus. He was a great prophet all right but what does he really have to say to me about life and all the stress of my everyday world?

Person 1. I thought Christmas was about peace and good will and warm feelings. Why complicate it with theological debates about a person who lived a long time ago in another culture.

Person 3. Actually, the readings and carols we sing on this night tell a wonderful story that really happened and that is still impacting our world today. Jesus Christ’s coming was promised by God all the way back to the beginning of time as told in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve had messed up big time and while God upheld the consequences of their mistake, God promised them that he could redeem the mess they had made. God promised to send a Savior “which is Christ the Lord.”

Person 2. Hey, I recognize those words! We hear “a Savior, which is the Christ the Lord” read every year at Christmas in church.

Person 1. But what does that all mean?

Person 3. It means that God loves us and wants us to love him back. It’s like raising our own kids. Sometimes, they have to deal with the consequences of their mistakes especially when we warned them not to do something but they did it anyway, but we never stop loving them and as parents, we are always working to help them bring something good out of the bad that was done.

Person 2. Are you saying God is like a parent?

Person 1. My parents certainly weren’t very helpful. I don’t know if I am interested in a big parent in the sky.

Person 3. We have to be careful not to put on God our human parents’ mistakes. God is perfect and his dealings with us are always for good, even when it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

Person 1. So Christmas is more of a celebration of the beginning of good coming out of a lot of bad?

Person 2. A good kind of family gathering only with God and his son, Jesus?

Person 3. Yes. Christmas is about God coming to earth and saying a cosmic “Yes” to all that is good and true and holy and right and possible in our lives. It is God coming as a gift in the person of Jesus Christ, a form of God we can understand and relate to.

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Congregational Hymn: What Child is This? (During the singing and the readings, the three “congregation members” participate as if they were in the congregation, singing along and listening to the readings.)

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Second Lesson—Titus 2: 11-14

Person 2. I don’t understand how Jesus can be God. I mean, he was a human being like us who needed to eat and sleep and go to the bathroom. He had feelings, he cried, he partied. That is not my idea of how God is supposed to be.

Person 1. Yeah, isn’t God supposed to be somewhere up there and not down here getting dirty with the rest of us?

Person 3. This is why it is called “Good News.”  Jesus came so that we might know God more intimately. It is a mystery how God could do that but he did. Haven’t you ever heard Jesus’ words, if you have seen me you have seen my father in heaven? If we want to know some of what God is like, we need to look at Jesus and see how he lived his life here on earth. And since he was living as a human being, we can see how he responded to good things and bad things and then try to model our lives after those responses. I know that he had to be God because if you have ever tried to live your life in relation to other people the way Jesus did, you know that you have to be God to do it right.

Person 1. But why isn’t it OK just to think of Jesus as a good person? I mean, a lot of people have great Christmas celebrations without getting all worked up about who Jesus was or wasn’t.

Person 3. Because after the unreality of the “holiday season” is over, we go back into our lives as they really are. We go back into our marriages and families and jobs and friendships, and we need something more than warm feelings to help us live well in the midst of all of those situations.

Person 2. I don’t know. The glow of the holidays carries me along for at least a couple of weeks. Well, usually, that is. I mean last year, things were a little tense in the family at Christmas and that unsettled me for a long time but often, I carry nice memories with me for a long time.

Person 3. But what if your celebration of Christmas was bigger than the external trimmings? What if what you were celebrating was bigger than your Christmas tree and your family tensions and the day after Christmas sale crowds? What if you had something that could carry you through all of your life, a greater Reality that stayed deep inside of you, even in July?

Person 1. That would keep a lot of the headache of Christmas in perspective, for sure. If all this time and money spent on preparation was for more than just one day…

Person 2. Is that even possible?

Person 3. If we can begin to grasp the Christ of Christmas, it is. If we lift our eyes above the overeating and partying and debt load we take on to make us feel good, we can keep something with us all year, regardless of what the actual celebration was like. If we will allow ourselves to embrace the story, we will find a greater purpose for our own lives.

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Congregational Hymn—Once in Royal David’s City

Gospel: Luke 2:1-20

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Person 1: OK, now we are into the stuff I can relate to. That reading always gives me goose bumps. I look forward to hearing it every year.

Person 3: But how does it impact your life? What does that story mean to you in March?

Person 1: Uh…

Person 2:  Oh, come on, let’s be realistic. A lot of us are here just for tonight because it’s traditional! We want to hear the story and sing the songs again. It makes us feel good. I always cry when we turn out all the lights, light all the candles and sing “Silent Night.” But then, it’s over until next year. How can some sheep story from 2000 years ago do anything for me today?

Person 3: This isn’t a sheep story but it is about the Good Shepherd of our souls. If all we carry away from tonight is a few tears and a wistfulness over the beauty of the night and couldn’t-life-always-be-like-this, then we have lost the power that is available to us by embracing the Babe in the manager who grows up to be the Christ on the cross, the Resurrected Lord, and the final Judge of all the ages. The full story allows for very little sentimentality.

Person 2: That little sheep story we just heard leads to all of that? Wow! I had no idea.

Person 3: The Christmas story is only the beginning of the most wonderful story every told, a story that is still being told.

Person 1: How is it still being told?

Person 3: In the life of every person who embraces this child of Bethlehem and invites him to grow up in their heart. Jesus will then continue to write a story of grace and goodness to all the world and he will do it through your personality, your passions and interests, your abilities and gifts. And believe me, it is a powerful story to see it unfolding in each of our lives today. It is an endless story with a variety of chapters that will take us all of eternity to listen to.

Person 2: You really get all of that out of this night?

Person 1: There really can be more to this than the let down I often feel on December 26th?

Person 3: Absolutely but you have to embrace the Person of the story and let him embrace you. Merry Christmas! 

 

During singing of the following hymn, actors exit. Chairs may remain or be removed.

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Congregational Song: From Heav’n Above to Earth I Come, verses 1-3, 12

Homily: optional

Continue with the rest of the service.

I invite you to use any of these, especially for the Year B readings. I only ask that you give me credit, including copyright and the words “Used By Permission.” I would love to know if you used any of these and what feedback you might have for them.

 

ADVENT VIGNETTES

Written for Advent 2002 (Year B Lectionary readings) by Valerie E. Hess ©2002

Based on the Hymn :  Watchman, Tell Us of the Night by John Bowring (1825)

 

Watchman, tell us of the night, What its signs of promise are.

Trav’ler o’er yon mountain’s height, See that glory-beaming star.

Watchman, doth its beauteous ray Aught of joy or hope foretell?

Trav’er, yes; it brings the day, Promised day of Israel.

Watchman, tell us of the night; Higher yet that star ascends.

Trav’ler, blessedness and light, Peace and truth, its course portends.

Watchman, will its beams alone Gild the spot that gave them birth?

Trav’ler, ages are its own; See, it bursts o’er all the earth.

Watchman, tell us of the night, For the morning seems to dawn.

Trav’ler, darkness takes its flight; Doubt and terror are withdrawn.

Watchman, let thy wand’rings cease; Hie thee to thy quiet home.

Trav’ler, lo, the Prince of Peace, Lo, the Son of God, is come!

 

 

 

Advent Week One

Watchman is standing up front, looking into the sky.

Traveler:  Ho, watchman, do you see anything yet?

Watchman:  No, Traveler, there are signs everywhere but nothing concrete.

Traveler:  Why do you keep watching, then?

Watchman:  Because none of us know when He will come.

Traveler:  But He has come already.

Watchman:  Once in the flesh, now in our hearts, still to make an appearing.

Traveler:  Should I be watching too?  But I’m so busy taking care of my lists!

Watchman:  Will you be ready for Him at the end of the lists?  Will the lists ultimately make you ready for him?

Traveler:  I don’t know; I hope so.  What could I do to make sure I don’t miss Him?

Watchman:  Slow down, listen, and live.

 

 

 

 

Advent Week Two

Watchman enters, calling over and over “Prepare the way of the Lord!  Prepare the way of the Lord!”  When he/she sees the traveler, points to him/her and says, “Cry!”

Traveler:  Watchman, what shall I cry?

Watchman:   Traveler, cry, “ All are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flowers fade because the breath of the Lord blows on them.  Surely people are like grass.  The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of our God stands forever.”

Traveler:  That is not a very cheerful, festive thought.

Watchman:  Under all the tinsel and lights, the world is not a festive, cheerful place.

Traveler:  What should I do in the midst of Hollywood’s view of life versus my life as it actually is?

Watchman:  Live well, by God’s standards; make every effort to be honest, courageous, kind, and peaceful to all.  Don’t believe the prophets of consumerism.

Traveler:  I will add that to my to-do list and try to remember God in the midst of all my preparations.

Watchman:  Slow down, listen, and live.

 

 

Advent Week Three

Watchman enters carrying a fire extinguisher.

Traveler:  What are you looking for, Watchman?

Watchman:  The fire of the Lord to descend on this place, Traveler.

Traveler:  That would be so scary.  I’m not sure I’d want that.

Watchman:  Then what are you looking for?

Traveler:  A nice middle road.  I want Jesus and I want the good life as advertised all around me.

Watchman:  You can’t have it.

Traveler:  Why not?

Watchman:  The abundant life of Jesus comes to all people in all circumstances.  It is not dependent on what is under the Christmas tree but rather what is in your deepest thoughts and desires.

Traveler:  How can I change my thoughts and desires?

Watchman:  Be joyful always, hold on to the good, avoid evil in all its subtle and beautiful forms, trust God to be faithful in His promises to you.  Slow down, listen, and live.

 

 

 

Advent Week Four

The Watchman enters, looking all around.

Traveler:  Ho, watchman!  What do you see?

Watchman:  He is coming, Traveler!  He is coming!

Traveler:  People have been waiting for centuries.  How can you say he is coming now?  All I know is that December 25th is almost here and I’ve got all of these people showing up for dinner.  Why should I worry about someone promised so long ago coming again?

Watchman:  Mary was going about her everyday busy-ness when God came to her.  But in her everyday busy-ness, she was always watching and waiting so she didn’t miss the quiet voice speaking to her.  Traveler, have you in your false busy-ness missed the small voice of Jesus coming to you?

Traveler:  I don’t know.  How can I be sure not to miss God’s coming in small, quiet ways?

Watchman:  Say these words daily, “I am the Lord’s servant.”  Slow down, listen, and live.

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS EVE

Written for Christmas Eve 2002 as a continuation of the “Watchman/Traveler” dialogues from Advent

by Valerie E. Hess ©2002

 

Opening hymns/liturgy as you choose.

 

 

Watchman/Traveler Dialogue:

Reading:  Isaiah 9:2-7

Hymn:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

 

Watchman is in same place up front as for the Advent vignettes.  Traveler enters from back carrying a bucket and mop, a long list of paper that drags on the floor, and pushing a vacuum cleaner.  The traveler is stumbling and obviously harried.  Dialogue takes place in center aisle, near the front.

 

Watchman:  Whence comes this rush of noise from afar?

Traveler:  O, Watchman, how can you be so calm?  It is here and there is so much left undone!  How can I finish up all of the work that needs to be done before tomorrow morning?

Watchman:  Traveler, shouldn’t you be more concerned about Who is here?

Traveler:  What do you mean?  Isn’t all of this cleaning and other chores on my list meant to get me ready for Christmas?

Watchman:  Only if they ready your heart to prepare for the coming of the Savior.

Traveler:  Oh, yes, that is all very well and good but his coming happened a long time ago and now, what is important is the traditions we carry on to remember that sweet story.

Watchman:  But much of the truth of that story was not sweet.  It did not look like a Christmas card.  It was embarrassing to find Mary, a very young single girl, pregnant and not even by her fiancé.  Jesus was born in a barn.  He had to flee for his very life as a toddler.  It was too dangerous to settle in his ancestor’s hometown when they could finally come back from Egypt.  What makes you think that your celebration of his birth has to be sweet with warm feelings?

Traveler:  But that is what I see all around me!  That is what the holiday specials on TV and the advertisements  show me.  Everything is perfect and I want my life perfect, too.

Watchman:  If your life was perfect, you wouldn’t need the Savior.  And if you don’t need a Savior, why go through all the hassle to celebrate his birth?

Traveler:  Oh, Watchman, what can I do to truly celebrate this Savior?

Watchman:  Ask yourself what needs cleaning in your life, in your heart and soul.  Ask where you have left uncleaned closets from the past, closets full of hatred and resentment and fear.  Work on preparing your inner being to receive God anew.  And rejoice always!  Good news has come down to us from above.

 

Hymn/Carol:  “From Heav’n Above to Earth I Come

Reading:  Luke 2: 1-7.

 

Watchman is still up front but in a different place.  Traveler enters from side, wrapped in Christmas lights with Christmas decorations hanging from his/her hair and clothing.  A tray of cookies is in his/her hand.  Still harried but less so than in first vignette.

Traveler:  You were right, Watchman.  I let go of the unnecessary preparations I was doing and am now concentrating on the fun ones.  Let’s see, I just need to finish stringing the lights outside the house, put up the Christmas tree and decorate it, finish decorating the rest of the house, finish the baking, and oh, yes, in the spirit of giving, decorate my elderly neighbor’s house and take cookies to the homeless shelter.  That should be fun.

Watchman:  But how are you decorating your soul, Traveler?

Traveler:  Decorating my soul?  I’ve never heard of such a thing.  What do you mean?

Watchman:  You are doing all of these preparations not only for yourself but also for those who will come to visit you.  Jesus wants to come visit you.  He is knocking at your door.  Is your soul decorated for him to enter?

Traveler:  It has been so long since I have thought about the state of my soul that it must look like my garage does right now.  I would be embarrassed to have Jesus see it in that state.  What can I do, Watchman?

Watchman:  First of all, know that Christ comes to those who can’t help themselves.  He won’t bother those who don’t need a Savior.  There is no need to feel embarrassed.  Invite him in; he is the best at straightening out messes.  Shhh!  I hear his quiet footsteps approaching now.

 

Hymn/Carol:  O Little Town of Bethlehem

Reading:  Luke 2: 8-14.

 

Watchman is standing up front.  Traveler staggers in behind wrapped boxes piled so high, he/she can’t see the Watchman.

Traveler:  Oh, Watchman, where are you?  I can’t find you behind all of these gifts.  I spent more money than I had to make others happy.  I think I’m getting the idea of what Christmas is about and so I went all out this year gifting everyone.

Watchman:  What gift do you want for yourself, Traveler?

Traveler:  Didn’t you hear me?  Maybe these boxes are making it hard for you to hear.  (Almost shouting)  I said that these gifts were for others.  Isn’t that what this is all about?  Stuff for others?  Why would I think about a gift for myself?

Watchman:  (comes down to traveler and knocks boxes out of his/her hands)   When these are all broken, discarded, and forgotten, what will be left?  Where are the lasting gifts of God in these boxes?  What gift do you want for yourself, a gift that a thief can’t steal, and rust or moth can’t destroy?  A gift for your soul?

Traveler:  In my desire to spend so much money on everyone else, I haven’t even thought about lasting gifts for me.  What kinds of things should I ask God for, Watchman?

Watchman:  Courage, faith, obedience, prayer, honesty, patience, the ability to love everyone—even your enemies.

Traveler:  Well, those sound nice but some of them I don’t want.  I’m not sure I want to be courageous because that means God might send me into a tough situation.  And I’m not asking for patience because that gift is always given in times of hard waiting.  And loving my enemies!  Well, I can think of some people I don’t ever want to encounter again let alone try to love.  I’m not so sure I want those gifts.

Watchman:  Those are the gifts of God.  Maybe you don’t want God?

Traveler:  You know this doesn’t seem like a very festive, cheerful conversation to be having on Christmas Eve.  I’d rather think about Santa Claus and holiday lights and tomorrow’s Christmas dinner.

Watchman:  God’s gifts don’t exclude those other things but they do transform them into things we can be thankful for instead of grasping for.  Let us give thanks to God for the gift of his son, Jesus Christ.

 

Hymn/Carol:  Angels, We Have Heard on High

Reading:  Luke 2: 15-20.

Watchman is standing by a Nativity scene.  Traveler enters quietly with no props and goes reverently to manger.  Kneels. 

 

Traveler:  Watchman, I have let go of all of my preparation expectations.  Don’t get me wrong.  My house is decorated, the food will be great tomorrow, and the gifts are ready to be unwrapped.  But I have let go of needing to feel Christmas through those things.  I have come to see that if all of the external preparations for celebrating Christmas leave me breathless and empty inside, then Christmas has not been celebrated.

Watchman:  Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

 

Hymn:  Joy to the World

Reading:  John 1:1-14

 

Continue with rest of service as so desired.

 

 

 

 

The First Sunday of Advent and we light the candle of hope. Our candle this year is incarnated in the form of a new grandson! What a precious baby boy has been given to us. Image result for free photo Advent wreath one candle

Here in the darkening days in the Northern Hemisphere, we are given new life as a sign that God is good. That there have always been “wars and rumors of wars” (see Matthew 24: 6; today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew 24:36-44 ) and yet, new life is born in the dark and cold of humanity’s heart.

As with labor pains in pregnancy, Christ’s Second Coming will be unexpected, like a thief in the night. The call is to “stay awake”! Be ready! Or in today’s language, be present, intentional.

In Advent, we start with the end of the Story and move towards the beginning and the Feast of the Nativity, which begins on December 25th and goes on for 12 Days. Like a funnel, we take the broad themes and narrow them down into the birth of another precious baby, born to set us free: free from selfishness, darkness of mind and heart, small thinking, mean-heartedness, xeonphobia, misogyny, racism, poverty, ignorance, and all the other “darknesses” of the human race.

The question we can ask ourselves on this first Sunday of Advent is, do I like the darkness I know more than the light that is promised but unknown?

The answer isn’t necessarily obvious for any of us.

 

It has been an exciting week here at this old house. Our first grandchild, a boy, was born. During these darkening days, a ray of light and hope was given to us, much like the Child Advent will prepare us for beginning next week.

The bad news is the commercial holiday season is upon us. Even those of us who follow Christ have let the culture rob us of the joy and glory of the coming eight weeks. We let the Mall determine the timing of the holiday instead of welcoming the themes of Advent and the slow preparation towards the Twelve Days of Christmas which begin, not end, on December 25th. Here are some things you could consider to do more than just “survive the holidays”:

  1. Recognize that holiday is a contraction for holy day. Go into these days ahead with a sense of holiness, reverence, and awe for life and God’s gifts.
  2. Truly celebrate Thanksgiving Day (if you are in America, that used to the be start of the holiday season; now it is simply a pause in the middle of a shopping frenzy). Take time to truly be thankful for all God’s blessings in your life. Stop. Rest. Do things that are fun with others. Refuse to look at the shopping ads or go shopping at all on that day. Don’t support businesses that make their employees work on a holiday.
  3. Do the bulk of your Christmas shopping early, even throughout the year. Try to have it all done, possibly even to the point of being wrapped and labeled by mid-November. This will save you from fighting crowds and making last-minute expensive, desperation purchases. Save a few fun things, especially food items, for December but take a list with you of everything you have already bought for everyone. That way you won’t be tempted to impulse buy.
  4. Decorate slowly, if possible. Many people spend the day after Thanksgiving (or Thanksgiving itself) completely decorating the house for Christmas. Do a little bit each week so there is a gradual building into the fullness of Christmas Eve/Day. This is especially true for your faith community’s worship space. Model Advent in your church! Show the world that there is an alternative to the insanity of the Mall driven season.
  5. Spend time time around with your Advent wreath as a family. Have an age appropriate devotion to read each night at supper or a family Advent calendar. Make sure the lessons of Advent are not lost in the midst of the commercial holiday noise.
  6. Save some of your Christmas gatherings for Christmas, December 25th through January 6th. Have the neighborhood open house then. Host the office party in early January or July, if you have any say in that event. Host the extended family potluck after the 25th. There are many holiday gatherings and concerts at school, work, and other groups that we are required to attend during Advent; save some of the things you can for during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Again, if your church does a Christmas concert or program, offer it during the Twelve Days of Christmas, if at all possible. Spreading things out vs. cramming everything into three weekends will make it all more enjoyable for everyone.
  7. In early November, sit down with your calendars and mark out the priorities of the coming seasons for you and your family. If things are already scheduled, then when invitations arrive, you can know if it is possible for you do this or if you already have a prior commitment. It is also a good time to discern what really are the important aspects of the mid-November to January 6th time period. Do you really have to do everything you have been doing every year?
  8. Delegate. Make Christmas cards and baking projects family affairs. Set aside time in advance for those tasks to be done in leisure. Put on a pot of soup and some good music and make it a fun event.
  9. Remember the poor. In all that you do, find a way to give with your time as well as your resources. There are lots of options at this time of year for people to give to. Studies have shown that we don’t remember what gift we got last Christmas but we do remember doing something with others. Give the gift of memories to your children. Consider doing your Christmas giving in February or July when many non-profits are struggling to make ends meet while they have more donations and volunteers than they can handle during the holidays.
  10. In light of those studies, consider a family outing or trip instead of lots of presents. Time away from routines and electronics can be more meaningful than a pile of presents and the memories will last much longer than the gifts themselves.
  11. Remember: do what you can, not what you can’t. If there are things you can’t change for this year, print out this list. Look at it in July. Make the phone calls to the family members, friends, and church committees then so things can be discussed when things are not running on a “Hallmark high.” Begin to transition this season to one of life-giving events instead of duty and obligation. It is a holy time, after all.Image result for free photos relaxed Christmas time

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