I'm focusing on the Advent season more than Christmas Day. We have been lighting an Advent wreath every Sunday at the church where my husband pastors. We have been reading Advent devotionals as a family. We have an Advent calendar (that we're behind on) that focuses on the Nativity. I've been writing Advent Sunday devotionals for our Naomi's Circle ministry. We're doing some Advent activities in our home school activities. I've been very much enjoying the Advent Season that precedes Christmas, and it has been settling my heart down as a result.
I'm focusing on experiences more than expectations. The experience of taking my daughter to see The Nutcracker with our home school friends. The experience of my husband taking her to see Cinderella at our local theater. The experience of seeing the lights in our neighborhood and enjoying being with friends and family. The experience of reading the story of Jesus' birth to my children. In the past, my expectations of myself and of what Christmas "should" be have overshadowed my enjoyment of those moments or even prevented them in favor of getting my list done. Lists have their place, to be certain, but I am trying to see the moments for the treasures that they are.
I'm focusing on Jesus more than Santa. This is something that we decided years ago as a family. We don't ignore the jolly old elf entirely, but he is no more a part of our days than our daughter's other favorite characters, like Dora or Tigger. Our focus has been on Jesus...but we try to focus on Him the rest of the year as well. So in some ways, it is not that different from our other days when my daughter will ask me in the car on the way home from activities, "Mommy, tell me a Bible story!"
I'm focusing on miracles more than magic. So much is made of the "magic" of Christmas, in the lights and decorations and fantasy and stories. I love that as much as anyone, and to all of my friends who have decorated their homes and allowed me to enjoy that magic - thank you! But this year, I've been less concerned about recreating that magic in our own home and more focused on the miracles of the first Christmas, as well as the miracles that God has done in my own life - salvation, the gift of my husband, the privilege of being a mother to little ones both on earth and in Heaven, and especially the miracle of peace and joy after the losses of our babies four years ago.
I'm focusing on God's presence more than presents. My husband's good habit of buying gifts for family and friends throughout the year has rubbed off on me, so that helps immensely since our "shopping" was mostly done well before Thanksgiving. But we are also trying to very much reduce the focus on gifts. I am trying to help my daughter learn to say, "I like that" instead of "I want that" when she sees a cool toy in a catalog or store. Sometimes we have opened gifts on Christmas Eve, allowing us to focus Christmas Day fully on worship and celebration. We are limiting the number of gifts we are buying and the extravagance of them. Instead, we are trying to focus more on the gift of "God with us" that Jesus' birth was, and also how to be God's presence in others' lives, whether that means giving to others or doing something for others that communicates God's love to them.
I do hope that in future years I can put a little more into the trappings of Christmas, just because I do love seeing the decorations and all. But I hope that I can also keep my focus where it needs to be, even when the chaos around me is a little less.