Last year after Christmas was over, I wrote a note to myself:

Make a few meaningful events instead of lots of things. Don’t feel guilty for not doing service every day. It’s okay. Gingerbread houses, snowflakes, and remember the nativity. It’s okay to do something once instead of every year. Christmas: Do dinner for lunch. We don’t like ham and potatoes. Frog eye salad is good, and maybe a random assortment of favorite things. Don’t do too much food. Go and do something together outside on Christmas, like sledding or hiking or sight seeing.

The note to myself has been helpful this year. I haven’t followed all of it, but reading it allowed me to approach the holidays with less guilt. I have been trying to have a Christmas season that works for us and our family, instead of just doing things because there is some sort of expectation.

I am looking at the note, “Don’t do too much food,” and realizing that I have planned for too much food again this year. At least the food doesn’t include potato casserole and ham, which was a yearly tradition that we didn’t even like.

But I have done a few meaningful events: we attempted gingerbread houses, we looked at Christmas lights, we had a virtual family party, and we completed a move-a-thon fundraiser. I have served other people and reached out to neighbors and friends, but I’ve been more flexible about it, which has opened up better opportunities.

Growing up, Christmas felt incredibly significant. And I was trying to always keep that feeling, but it ended up starting to feel very heavy. I don’t need Christmas time to be different and special and complicated.

Christmas is a time to focus on Jesus Christ, and that’s a simple thing. Christmas is best when it becomes simple–when Christmas isn’t about the abundance of trying to do everything, but about doing the most important things.

Christmas isn’t always the same. This year, I took my kids Christmas shopping (at an actual store). I bought a present for my husband (we haven’t exchanged presents for years). The pandemic means that parties have been virtual and events have been simplified. My decorations are haphazard. I haven’t really watched any Christmas movies. I’ve neglected presents I could have given.

I didn’t everything I wanted to do this year in the way I wanted to do it, but I don’t feel guilty about it. I’m just grateful for where I’m at.

Next year will look different too. And it probably won’t be particularly special. But life isn’t about creating significance through enthusiastic perfectionism, but seeing the significance in small moments.

When I free myself of burdensome expectations that are laced with guilt, I get a little closer to enjoying the holiday season how I really want to enjoy it: simple, fun, and better focused on Jesus Christ.

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