You don’t need to merely hope for a restful and purposeful holiday season; you can actually make it happen.
How will you spend your Christmas break? Whether you’re off work for a long weekend or a few weeks, chances are you’re hoping for a meaningful and refreshing time away. Restful vacations aren’t a given, but there are things you can do to realize your hopes for your holiday.
I had high expectations for Christmas when I was in college. Driving home I would imagine quiet fireside reading, caroling, baking cookies, visiting old friends, and squeezing in all our family traditions — while also resting. In reality, the days flew by, packed full of errands, late night movies, slow-start mornings, too much sugar, and a vague sense that I hadn’t actually gotten the deep soul-rest I longed for.
Can you relate? All these years later, it’s still challenging to get everything bought and wrapped in time for Christmas while addressing cards, hosting company, serving at church, and finding time to enjoy peaceful reflection while avoiding time wasters.
In a letter to his godchild, C. S. Lewis helpfully wrote about how we tend spend our time:
Oh – I’d nearly forgotten – I have one other piece of advice. Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do. (1) Things we ought to do (2) Things we’ve got to do (3) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of these three reasons… (Letters to Children, 27)
Ouch. In every stage of life, we’re prone to fritter away time on things that aren’t required, expected, or even enjoyable. Who hasn’t felt the shock of looking up from a screen only to discover the five-minute scan of social media has morphed into an hour or more with little but envy or anxiety to show for it?
With some intentionality, however, you can steward your break wisely. Here are a few ideas to get started.
It’s easy to assume that the best way to rest is to sleep more. If you’ve been working nights to pay for school, that may be what you need. But typically, it’s better to go to bed at a reasonable hour and get up early. Those quiet hours before the day gets busy are precious time to read, pray, and think. If you’ve skimped on time with the Lord during your regular routine, Christmas break offers a reset opportunity to make your relationship with God a priority.
The best way I’ve found to keep a quiet heart and mind capable of focusing on studying God’s Word is to wait until after I do devotions to check my phone. Reading the Bible before you read the headlines is a path to peace.
Leave your phone behind.
Speaking of phones, it’s easy to be distracted from conversations with friends and family when your phone keeps buzzing notifications. What if you left your phone behind on purpose? I’m not saying you should travel without it, but that you should protect some of your vacation from your phone. Try leaving it on your dresser during meals, and in your purse or car when you’re meeting with friends, going to a movie, in church, or even shopping. We’re so used to having our phones (or smart watches) with us all the time that we hardly remember life without them. But they dwindle our attention span, distract us from the people in front of us, and leave us feeling drained.
In “Digital Minimalism,” Cal Newport cautions against giving more than you get from your apps. Ask yourself what benefits you’re getting for all the attention, time, and personal information you’re giving to tech companies. His advice: Set a limit on how much time you spend on your apps and be strategic about which apps you use.
Our daughter (20), knows her weakness: to spend her break browsing what her friends are doing for the holidays. She set a five-minute daily limit on Instagram so she can focus on things that truly refresh: reading, painting, playing piano, and exercising. It may take a few days to get used to not having your go-to apps at your fingertips, but reclaiming your time for more tangible investments is worth the adjustment.
As Christians, we’re greatly helped by observing Advent, the season leading up to celebrating the coming of Christ. There are many daily Advent devotionals for meditating on Jesus’ first coming and looking forward to His return. This year my family is reading “The Coming of the King” by J. C. Ryle. We’ve chosen a different one each year to read together as a family – something you could do with your roommates or relatives if you’re heading home. The daily readings remind us of what’s most important about this season.
Plan to serve.
Giving of yourself at Christmas is a less obvious but valuable gift. Taking younger siblings out for coffee, listening to elderly grandparents, praying with fellow church members – these are just a few examples of ways you can invest in people who matter to you. When it feels like you can’t squeeze one more thing onto your calendar, serving others is surprisingly refreshing. But it shouldn’t surprise us – Jesus said it’s more blessed to give than to receive. Among our most valuable assets is our time and our attention. Look for ways to spend yourself for the good of others, not out of guilt, but joyfully, knowing that in Christ, you’ve been given an infinite gift (1 John 5:11).
Whether you’re entering Christmas break with high hopes or modest expectations, pray for help. Ask God to give you wisdom for how to spend your time. Thank Him for the blessing of vacation and the provision of rest. And ask Him to order your steps and focus your heart and mind on Jesus, the One who came to earth to give us true rest (Matthew 11:28).
Copyright 2022 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.