6 Ways to Prepare for the Holidays

6 Ways to Prepare for the Holidays

Preparing for the holidays can be a lot of work. In fact, during the next few weeks, your Christmas to-do list is probably about to grow into an outrageous, poster-sized banner. Am I right? And then, before you know it, your Christmas experience turns into a frenzy of challenging task after challenging task.

Why not do it differently this year? Let’s get a head start on this season to ensure that this Christmas is about the celebration of the birth of Our Savior. Below you will find six ways you can prepare for Christmas while remembering the reason we celebrate the season.

1. Add an advent calendar to your nightly routine. An advent calendar is a wonderful way to prepare your family for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Not sure how an advent calendar works? Check out our article on How To Use An Advent Calendar and get a head start on the celebration this year.

2. Decorate your Christmas tree as a family.  Choose lights and ornaments that represent the true Christmas story. With the Twelve Names of Christmas Ornaments, you can start 12 days before Christmas—read one story each night with your family and have your children hang the corresponding ornament on the tree.

3. Serve others. Start a card ministry, organize a bake sale for your favorite charity, deliver pre-cooked Christmas dinners or easy-clean-up meals to your elderly friends, or volunteer your time at a local food pantry. By serving others at Christmas and year-round, you are answering God’s call in your life. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 ESV

4. Decorate gradually. Slow down the process of putting your nativity scene out. By displaying your manger scene one piece at a time, you will be able to truly focus on the involvement of each person in the miraculous first Christmas story—of course, topping it off Christmas Day with the arrival of baby Jesus.

5. Find time to sit quietly. As the busyness of the holiday season approaches, set aside a designated time each day to fully focus on listening to God’s voice. Pick up some prayer resources to help deepen your personal relationship with Jesus as we approach the celebration of His birth.

6. Study the Christmas story. Read enlightening books about the amazing birth of Jesus. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamphelps readers celebrate the lineage and the majesty of Jesus Christ; while The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgsfocuses more on the biblical stories of Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna. Looking for materials to help your children or grandchildren learn more about the birth of Christ? Check out our Christmas-themed activity books such as Christmas Joysor Jesus Is Born!

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the Christmas rush. At DaySpring, we want to come alongside you this season to bring you inspirational devotionals, helpful tips, and fun ideas to remind us all of the reason we celebrate Christmas. We hope our six ways to prepare for the holidays will help bring your focus back to the amazing Christmas story and His unfailing love for us.

Devotional credit: Dayspring.com

 

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Discovering the Advent Season

Discovering the Advent Season

Every year, I plan on buying a traditional Advent calendar to help my family get ready for Christmas.  I like the idea of daily Advent readings that help build anticipation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  Unfortunately, I’m usually busy and forget to buy the calendar until after Advent has already started.  There is so much going on at Thanksgiving, and then the parties start, and before you know it, Christmas is upon us.  The calendar itself is not the most important thing; it’s about what celebrating Advent does for us during a very busy time of the year.

Advent is the season that starts four Sundays before Christmas.  For hundreds of years, Christians have used this season to remember the coming of Christ, and to prepare for Christmas.  It’s more than just a piece of history, though.  So, why do we celebrate Advent?  Celebrating the Advent season can help us today to follow Christ more faithfully in at least three ways.

Advent helps us focus on Jesus.

We’ve all heard the clichés like “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas.”  Even though they are clichés, they contain nuggets of truth.  One of the reasons that they exist is that it is just so easy to let all of the activities, and shopping, and parties overwhelm our focus on Jesus.  Celebrating Advent gives us daily and weekly reminders through Scripture about who Christ is and what He did for us when He came to earth.

Advent helps us honor Jesus.

The word “Advent” means the arrival of someone or something important.  When an important event like a graduation or wedding is coming, we work hard to make sure everything is perfect.  When an important person is coming to visit, we work hard to properly prepare for them so that they will know they are valuable to us.  We plan the menu and the decorations; we clean the house and edge the lawn.  We don’t just wait until the last minute and throw something together.  Similarly, celebrating Advent helps us give Jesus the proper attention and focus He deserves.  By focusing on Him throughout this season, and not just on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we honor Him more faithfully.

Advent helps us remember Jesus is coming again.

Advent is not only a celebration of Christ’s first coming as a baby; it is also a reminder of Jesus’ return that is yet to come.  Just as God’s people awaited the first coming of the Messiah, His people now await the return of our Savior.  The four weeks of Advent remind us of both of these comings.  In weeks one and two, the Scripture readings look forward to His second coming and remind us of the importance of being prepared for His return.  Weeks three and four look backward and help us remember the excitement and expectation that the hope of the Messiah brought to the ancient Jews.  It has always been important for God’s people to remember that God is up to something, and that we need to live in expectation of what He will do when He comes again.

In our world, there are so many things that can occupy our attention.  The Christmas season is one of the most exciting times of the year, but it is also one of the most distracting seasons of the year.  Even for those who want to keep focused on Jesus, it is difficult to do so.  By celebrating Advent, we acknowledge that celebrating Jesus is more than one evening and the following day.  The ‘how’ to celebrate Advent isn’t as important as the connection you make with Him, so create special traditions as a family and grow in Him together.  Let us be a people who acknowledge God’s great love and generosity for his people every day this Advent season.

Devotional credit: Dayspring.com

Finding Peace in the Face of Family Stress

Finding Peace in the Face of Family Stress

Life is full of choices, isn’t it? One of the hardest choices for me personally is choosing my response in stressful situations. And the situations that seem the most difficult? Family matters. Ah yes, you know what I’m talking about? Aunt Susie and Uncle Billy enjoy a wonderful marriage, but all the sudden, on a holiday weekend when the entire family is finally together, they choose to argue and complain to one another loudly in front of everyone. The underlying tension that results is thick enough to cut. Or maybe all the children of the extended family are running around together when one of them suddenly takes a tumble and tears flow. One after another, toddlers melt down and preschoolers throw tantrums. Maybe your family doesn’t have these moments because long ago, two sisters decided they no longer would speak to each other. So rather than stemming from reactions within the family, stress results from having zero interaction with one another.

Regardless of your personal family circumstances, whether health problems, differences of opinion, or distressing issues, finding peace in the face of family stress is challenging. How can we discover harmony within our families in stressful times? Check out these practical and inspiring ideas!

1. Choose a light-hearted approach when possible.

When I was growing up, my parents often hosted missionaries and ministry workers of all kinds. There were no restaurants in our small town and folks had to eat somewhere. One day, the visiting missionary’s son spilled his entire glass of milk at our dinner table in a typical child-like fumble. His parents looked ready to crawl under the table, but with nine kids of his own, my dad just continued passing the potatoes. In a quiet voice, he said “That’s never happened here before.” Then he glanced up at the missionaries and everyone began to laugh. Whenever family bumps occur, a little laughter can go a long way.

2. Remember that time together is precious.

Learning to overlook oddities or parts of family relationships we don’t appreciate is much easier when we keep them in perspective. See your family often? Treasure the memories you are making. Family living all over the country? Enjoy those cramped moments of sleeping in odd spaces and eating in tight places. In the face of stress, embrace the time you have because time is not a commodity we can purchase.

3. Build in quiet moments during family time.

Regardless of the family size or family member ages, one simple way to enjoy a calm family conversation moment is to ask each person to say one thing they appreciate or admire about the person to their right. Moving a conversation around the table in this fashion brings a sweetness to spirits.

4. Recognize that the best peace comes from the Lord.

Psalm 147:13-14 ESV reminds us how the Lord provides:

For He strengthens the bars of your gates; He blesses your children within you. He makes peace in your borders; He fills you with the finest of the wheat.

Reading the above verse in the face of family stress or saying a short prayer asking for peace is a beautiful way to approach burdens or worries that threaten to steal the joy of family. When we choose to face the challenges with the thoughts above, a peaceful perspective results! Trusting the Lord to provide “impossible peace” results in incomprehensible peace. As Isaiah reminded his people:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3ESV

Devotional credit: Dayspring.com