If I had a quarter for every time in the past week I’ve exclaimed, “I can’t believe it’s November!,” I’d be probably just a quarter shy of buying myself a venti Pumpkin Spice Latté from Starbucks. So allow me to state the obvious one more time: “I can’t believe it’s November!”
As I walked down the aisles of my local Dollar Tree last week, small decorative pumpkins, tablecloths adorned with acorns, faux evergreen garland and Christmas stockings lined the shelves. November is here, which means the holidays are practically upon us.
Now is the time to begin preparing our hearts and minds for the holidays. But here’s the thing: Christian checklists about holiday preparation have become a bit cliché. So, to switch it up, I thought I’d share my how-to list for a miserable holiday season. I hope you find it enlightening.
- Compare yourself to others. Holidays are the prime time to either feel sorry for yourself or become proud over what you have when you look at others around you.
- Think your struggle is unique. Holidays usually highlight some of the frustrations and disappointments of our lives because they mark time and remind us of the change (or lack thereof) in our lives. Believe that no one has ever felt the way you have. Wallow in that feeling of isolation.
- Spend a lot of time on social media. This will isolate you and heighten feelings of comparison. Who doesn’t want more of that?
- Stop reading the Bible and praying, and skip church if you’re too tired. The holidays are busy, right? When something needs to be cut from your schedule, obviously the Bible, prayer and corporate worship should go first.
- Only hang out with people like you. Sure, Jesus’ coming may have done a lot to break down barriers with folks unlike us. But why should we get uncomfortable over Christmas? Just hang out with folks like you and have fun.
- Form unrealistic expectations. Be the Clark Griswold of your holidays. Idealize everything about the holidays, be drastically disappointed when it doesn’t work out, then take it out on those you love.
- Expect to be offended at family dinners. Go into the holidays ready to be irritated and annoyed. Maybe you’ll be asked about your lack of a significant other. Maybe you’ll be asked about your lackluster job. Or perhaps a political or religious issue will come up. Definitely go into your family gatherings with your armor on and ready to fight.
- Constantly think about what you should be getting. Nothing makes a holiday go downhill faster than dwelling on all of the things you’re not getting, whether that’s a party invite, a gift from a family member or a chance to visit around the table instead of helping clean up the kitchen. Dwell on those things.
- Don’t embrace the wonder and festivity of the season. Jesus-juke at every opportunity. Complain and grumble about the commercialism of Christmas. Be a Scrooge.
- Fill your calendar to the brim. Believe that you can do it all. Don’t take time to rest. Bake all the cookies. Attend all the parties. Make all the Christmas crafts.
- Don’t think about the implications of the Christmas story. Leave the story in the neat tidy Children’s Bible with the smiling faces around the manger. Ignore the startling message that Jesus became man and dwelt among us in a physical body, eating with sinners and tax collectors, remaking our broken world through miracles, dying for our sins, then resurrecting. No need to dwell on that and let it convict you of sin and apathy. Stay comfortable and complacent.
I don’t know how my holidays will go. I obviously hope to avoid the aforementioned list, but as I prepare this season, my to-do list is pretty darn simple:
- Stay rooted in the Bible, prayer and my local church
- Celebrate by planning and participating in activities that bring me joy
- Serve and love others by living into the Christmas story
I’m not entirely sure what it will look like to accomplish this short list this particular holiday season. But my husband and I will probably throw a party for our neighbors. I’ll print out a list of Advent readings online and make it a priority to be at my home church every Sunday. I’ll put up my nativity set and Christmas tree. I’ll try to love my neighbors and family well. I’ll keep an eye out for ways to get out of my bubble and move toward the hurting just as Jesus did when He left heaven and came to us.
Even though I can’t believe it’s November, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming quickly, I think I’m ready for the holidays — thanks to my two lists.