I hope all of you will have a blessed Christmas, a happy Christmas, a merry Christmas.
But most of all, I hope you have a careful Christmas.
Now I know that isn’t a very festive sounding greeting. It won’t be used on any Christmas cards or as a strapline on television ads. It may even sound a little Grinch-like, as if I am wishing you a Christmas with no chocolate or tinsel or festive sweaters.
But when the Bible says, careful, it doesn’t mean an Ebenezer Scrooge kind of carefulness, with frugalness instead of fun and no coal for the fire. No, when the Bible says careful, in Ephesians 5.15-17, it means intentional.
Because intentionality is the only way to get the Christmas you really want.
An intentional Christmas is one that has planning and thought. It is premeditated, not accidental. It is designed, not left to chance.
A good Christmas is created; it is not a fluke.
And the good news is that even today, on December 16th, we can design the next couple of weeks to be the meaningful, joyful holiday time that we really want and need.
But we will have to be very careful about how we use our time. Today is the day to pull out our battered 2019 diaries and look at the last two weeks of December. Most of us will have days off of work and it really matters how we spend them. So what do you want to make sure you have time for? Don’t just wish and hope; pencil it in. Who would you really like to catch up with? Text them now and make it happen. What would you like time to think about, listen to or read before this year ends? Make an appointment with yourself, treat it as important commitment and then follow through. What would make Christmas extra meaningful to you? Make space and do it. Do not ever believe the lie that we are slaves to Christmas busyness. We can take control and make the last two weeks of December beautiful. And then we can bring that intentionality right into 2020, determining to always prioritize the things that we value most.
We will also have to be intentional with our money. If we have bought the presents and food needed then we need to stop. It is so easy to keep going, to be swept along with the compulsion to purchase a few more stocking stuffers or tins of chocolates just because ‘it’s Christmas’. But knowing when ‘enough is enough’ is a gift that your wallet and your waistline will thank you for in January. Only spend in accordance with your values. Stick to what you can afford. Give cheerfully to those in need. Be generous with your time and your words and enjoy blessing others in creative and surprising ways.
Relationships, too, need intentionality at this busy time. We will spend time over Christmas with people who are sad or discouraged, facing loss or ill health. Some people are extra sensitive and easily feel left out. Some find social situations stressful. If we can be more aware of others, we can include and encourage the people we love. We can be the one who pulls others in and makes them feel like they belong. All it takes is a few minutes of our time and caring enough to notice.
And we can be careful with our own hearts. Overcommitment can wear us out. Family get-togethers can rub us the wrong way. It is so easy to get hurt feelings and frazzled souls so we must remember to make time for ourselves as well. Even a few minutes a day in worship and prayer might be the difference between a happy Christmas and one that is fraying around the edges. So do something you enjoy every day. Hug your kids. Worship Jesus by the Christmas tree. Smile at shopkeepers. Stir up gratitude and choose to see the best in everyone, even yourself.
Remember, Christmas is not set in stone. Traditions can be changed if they don’t fit anymore. We can try new recipes and new routines and new ways of celebrating. We can make time for what matters to us. We can design our Christmas so that it serves us and the people we love well.
And it will be a Christmas that fills up instead of wearing out, looks outward instead of inward, prioritizes people over stuff and points to Jesus, who gives everything purpose and value and joy.