I could feel it. It was starting again - that feeling of overwhelm as the ever-lengthening mental checklist of things to do overtook my mind. The Christmas season had arrived in full swing again. The decorating, the shopping, the baking, the cards, the gatherings and get-togethers, the expenses . . . It was all there. Yes, I knew for days Christmas was on the calendar. It wasn’t a surprise, so why did it seem to cause anxiety every single time?
I’d go to church and sing about that “silent night” when “all was calm, and all was bright.” Yet, in my heart, I felt anything but that. How could a holiday about the birth of my Savior, that precious baby Jesus, whose light had captivated me, changed me, and transformed my life, cause so much stress?
I knew I was doing the season wrong. I knew something had to change.
Have you felt this way, too? Rather than bring joy, peace, hope, and calm, does the season cause dread, stress, exhaustion, and anxiety? If so, I hope you’ll join me on this journey to quieting our hearts this Christmas season.
Below are ten simple ways to begin quieting your heart when faced with that hustle and bustle and all that jingle jangle. If you can’t try them all, I challenge you to do just one or two. Small changes can go a long way.
1. Write down what's on your mind before bed each night.
Just like the storage on your mobile device can only hold so many files, so can your brain only hold so many thoughts, worries, and to-dos before it begins to shut down and spiral into crisis mode. Whether it’s that list of gifts you still must buy, worries regarding the upcoming out-of-town guests who aren’t so easy to get along with, or all the things you need to do for the family gathering, getting it all down on paper frees mental space for rest. Keep a pen and notebook on the nightstand next to your bed so you can unload your thoughts and go to sleep. It’s a freeing exercise that invites a little more peace and calm.
2. Pray over every single day.
This one goes hand in hand with point number one above. Sure, unloading your worries on paper can help free up the mental space you need to rest, but it’s even more effective when you give those worries over to God. Before you begin each new day, take that journal where you wrote your thoughts from the night before and give them to God in prayer - every single one. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” God promises rest if we come to him. So, give your day to him, and then let it happen as it will. He calms our hearts when we invite him into our days.
3. Add an Advent devotional to your routine.
I’ve always struggled a bit with Bible study books that require endless pages of reading and questions, but I’ve learned over the years that time with God does not have to look that way. Sometimes, it looks more like feasting on bite-sized pieces of God’s Word throughout your days. There are many Advent devotionals that you could easily add to your days as you drink your morning coffee, enjoy your lunch break, or wind down at night. These five-minute readings with Scripture to meditate on help keep your focus on the real reason for the season, tune out the chaos, and fill your heart with hope.
4. Soak in the words of some faith-based Christmas music.
We blast our favorite holiday tunes while driving, baking, wrapping gifts, or decorating the tree, but how often do we slow down and listen to the words? I encourage you to find a few minutes a day and actively listen to the lyrics of a faith-based Christmas song. Turn down those tunes about Santa Claus, reindeer, and gifts, and crank up a little more Jesus to help shift your focus toward what matters. A few of my personal favorites are below:
- “Away in a Manger/Forever Amen” – Phil Wickham
- “All Is Well” – Michael W. Smith
- “I Still Believe in Christmas” – Anne Wilson
- “O Holy Night” – Shane and Shane
- “He Shall Reign Forevermore” – Chris Tomlin
- “Emmanuel/Hallowed Manger Ground” – Chris Tomlin
- “Noel” – Lauren Daigle
- "Arrival" – Hillsong Worship
There are so many others I could name. As I let the music and lyrics wash over me, they give me goosebumps and quiet my heart in worship. Find the songs that do this for you, too, and put them on repeat.
5. Go for a winter walk outdoors.
There's something about the cold, fresh air that rejuvenates your soul and calms your heart. Take in the beauty of God’s creation. Feel the cool breeze on your skin. Breathe in the aroma of the snow-covered pines. See the ground freshly blanketed in white. Listen to the crunch of snow and ice beneath your feet. As you walk, reflect on who God is and what he has done for you. Remember how he sent his Son to be born in a manger, later to pay the ultimate price on that cross, to save you and me. That hope alone should bring peace to your heart.
6. Take 15 minutes a day to sit and do nothing.
No matter how busy you feel, you must make time for yourself. Take a moment to cozy up by the Christmas tree with hot cocoa. Light a winter candle, close your eyes, and relax. Take time to breathe. Take a moment just to be still. You can’t be at peace when your mind is constantly pulled in a million directions, but you can feel it when you take time to be still long enough to welcome the One (God) who can give it. Psalm 46:10a says, “Be still and know that I am God. . .” If we slow down long enough to feel God’s peace, he will surely give it.
7. Simplify gift-giving.
Remember, the material gifts you give each other are not what the season is truly all about, so don’t make the season all about them. Find ways to simplify your gift-giving. Rather than giving gifts to every person in the family, consider drawing names amongst family members, giving a special gift to just one or two people. The gifts will still mean just as much, and simplifying will take unnecessary stress off everyone’s plates. You could also consider simplifying your giving to four easy categories for your immediate family. Give each person 1) one thing they want, 2) one thing they need, 3) one thing to wear, and 4) one thing to read.
If shopping still stresses you out, consider giving the gift of experiences instead of material items. This could be a zoo or museum membership for all the family to enjoy together, tickets to an amusement park, concert, sporting event, or another fun outing, or a subscription box for family cooking or game nights. The ideas are endless. Whatever route you choose for your gift-giving this season, keep your primary focus on the true gift of Jesus.
8. Do something fun.
Plan at least one fun Christmas outing in December. Don’t get so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of commercialism and endless to-dos that you don’t make quality time for the ones you love. Go to a Christmas tree farm and select a tree together as a family. Find a local holiday market, festival, or concert to enjoy. Drive around and take in all the Christmas lights. Or, instead, plan a night in with Christmas movies and a hot cocoa bar. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that doesn’t feel like work. Keep it simple and make it fun.
I love the words to a song from that old Christmas classic, Home Alone:
Candles in the window
Shadows painting the ceiling
Gazing at the fire glow
Feeling that gingerbread feeling.
Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see.
Somewhere in my memory
Christmas joys all around me
Living in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me.
("Somewhere In My Memory" by John Williams)
A few years from now, it’s the memories of the precious moments, special people, and happy faces that will matter. Take time to quiet your heart and enjoy the season with those you love.
9. Turn on “Do Not Disturb” and take care of yourself.
Seriously! It’s okay to turn on “do not disturb” on your devices from time to time. Turn off some notifications on those attention-stealing apps. Limit the pop-ups on your screen and allow some texts to wait. Take time to unplug! There’s enough demanding your time and attention this season that you don’t need to be plugged in and available 24/7 to the “whole world.”
Instead, take time for your regular exercise. It’s one of the best stress relievers – an outlet – for all that pent-up energy and anxiety. Also, get sufficient rest. Depriving yourself of sleep to get everything done won’t lead to increased productivity. Maintain your regular sleep schedule; perhaps even give yourself a few extra Zzz’s. Finally, remember to rest in the One who can truly quiet your heart. I love what Psalm 62:1 says in the New International Version: “Truly my soul finds rest in God . . . ” This season, find your rest in God alone. He will sustain you.
10. Focus on what you love and let go of what you don’t.
There are so many things we can spend our time on at Christmas - endless gatherings with different groups of friends, all the holiday craft markets and boutiques, a surplus of activities for kids . . . Instead of trying to do it all, choose 3-5 traditions that are most important to you and focus on those. I’ve always been a firm believer in doing a few key things well rather than trying to do everything with half the effort. So, do what you love and let go of what you don’t. You’ll be so glad you did!
May we all find the peace of Christ in our hearts this Christmas.
As one of the songs mentioned above says:
Remember, friends: Our Savior was born. He is here. And he’s Emmanuel. When we have his peace in our hearts, all the other glitz and glam of the season fades into the backdrop. All is still. All is quiet. And all is well.
You're invited to Christmas at Berean!
Quiet your heart this Christmas by focusing on the true reason for the season. You're invited to Christmas at Berean. Our services are family-friendly, and we'll step back from the chaos of life for a moment to enjoy some beautiful Christmas music and a meaningful message. We'll wrap up the evening by singing "Silent Night" by candlelight. Kids' programming is available at the 10:30 am and 4 pm services. Click the graphic below for more details!