Due to the never-ending shopping lists, parties to plan, and impending winter weather, it can be hard to be present during the holiday season. As someone who personally struggles with being present during the holiday season, here are four tangible and practical ways to find joy and feel connected to God and others this holiday season:
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1. Focus on Time with God
The first way to be present this holiday season is to focus on spending time with God. It can be difficult to have quality time with God during the hectic weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Instead of sitting at the feet of Jesus, we are often distracted by all the preparations. In this way, we are similar to Martha. Instead of choosing to sit at the feet of the Lord, we are worried about all of the things that have to be done.
Martha was upset because her sister wasn’t helping with the preparations that had to be done, and she complained to the Lord. The Lord replies, “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42). As the Lord tells us, Mary chose what was better. In this holiday season, we need to remember to focus on spending time with God rather than focusing on all of the preparations and events of the holiday.
We can focus on spending time with God by talking with Him in prayer and reading the Bible. When we talk with God in prayer, He always hears us, and He answers our prayers per His will. Talking with God is just like talking with a friend. We don’t have to use fancy words or rehearsed lines to talk with God. God wants us to be honest and genuine when talking with Him. We also need to read the Bible because it is the main way God communicates with us today.
We cannot expect to hear back from God if we never open His Word. The Bible contains everything we need to live a life in service to the Lord. The Apostle Paul tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If we neglect our Bible reading, we will neglect our time with God. This is why we must focus on spending time with God to be present during the holiday season.
2. Focus on Celebrating the Birth of Jesus
A second way to be present this holiday season is to focus on celebrating the birth of Jesus. Many of us forget the true meaning of Christmas because we are drowned by the stresses of the holiday season and all the secular culture to-do lists. It is easy to dissociate from reality when we are overwhelmed or stressed. Sometimes dissociating is the only way to make it through difficult seasons of life, yet by dissociating, we are not being present. We can bring our minds back to being in the present by focusing on the birth of Jesus.
Christmas is not about gifts, parties, or fancy feasts. While all of these things are nice, they are not what Christmas is all about. The true meaning of Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus, welcoming our Redemption to the world. We need to focus on this truth to help us to be present during the holiday season. We can become crestfallen if we base the quality of our Christ on how many gifts we receive or if we attended all of the parties. When we focus on celebrating Christ rather than measuring our happiness by other means, we can truly be present for the holiday season.
If you need practical ways to focus on the birth of Christ this holiday season, consider investing in an Advent reading plan or devoting your Bible study time to seeing the Nativity through the eyes of each character: Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, the Shepherds, even the busy townspeople, and Baby Jesus.
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3. Spend Time with Loved Ones
A third way to be present this holiday season is to spend time with loved ones. Being around others we love allows us to reflect on God's goodness and keeps us grounded in this season of rejoicing. God never intended for us to walk this life alone, and when we are alone, we tend to be less present and more occupied with our own thoughts. In my own experience, I have found this to be true, and maybe you have too.
Spending time with loved ones doesn’t mean you have to be in constant conversation with close family and friends, as you can do many other things to spend time with loved ones. Going on a hike, drawing a picture together, or decorating the Christmas tree are all unique ways to spend time with loved ones. Even just a simple hug can help you feel more connected and present this holiday season. It is important that we are intentional about being present this holiday season because it can be easy to disconnect from reality and those we love.
It is also a great idea to abstain from too much phone use while you are spending time with loved ones. Social media and always being on our phones can cause us to disconnect from reality as well as it can cause us to compare our lives to someone else's life. Therefore, it is best to restrain from being on our phones too much while we are with our loved ones. If we are constantly checking our phones when we are with our loved ones, they may think we are bored or that we don’t care about them. By limiting phone time or completely cutting it out, we can be present to spend time with our loved ones during the holiday season.
4. Take Time to Enjoy the Holiday Season
A fourth way to be present this holiday season is to take time to enjoy the holiday. As previously mentioned, many of us end up rushing around during the holiday season and we fail to truly live in the moment. The holiday season only comes once a year and for many individuals, it is their favorite time of the year. Slow down and enjoy each part of the joyful, festive season. Take time to truly enjoy yourself whether that is singing your favorite Christmas song or enjoying your favorite piece of pie without guilt.
Taking time to enjoy the holiday season can help us become more present because we are truly living in the moment of the holiday. We are slowing down and paying attention to what’s going on around us when we are taking time to enjoy the holiday. Enjoying the sights, the smells, and the feel of the holiday can help us be connected to the moment. When we are disconnected from the present, we fail to take time to enjoy all the little things. By failing to enjoy them, we can lose the spark of the holiday season.
Being present this holiday season can be difficult for many of us, yet it is important for us to be present. If you struggle with mental health issues like myself or are walking through a season of grieving, it can be extremely hard to be present at times during the holiday season. However, this is a great time to be proactive in prioritizing your mental and physical health. Talk to doctors and Christian counselors, and allow them to weigh options for healthy medication. Taking care of your body's needs allows you to enjoy the moment you are in.
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Originally published Monday, 31 October 2022.