It’s that time of the year again, as the song goes, “The most wonderful time of the year!” I do love this time of year. I enjoy all the get-togethers and parties. But let’s face it. Christmas is not without its challenges. Oh, so many challenges…

Christmas is a time when we should be filled with hope, joy and thankfulness. We look back and can be thankful for the birth of Jesus and his coming. In the present we can be thankful for all that he has done for us, that leads to our forgiveness and salvation. And as we look to the future, we can be thankful Jesus is coming again and for our eternity with him.

Yet, it’s so easy to fall into discontentment during this season; so easy to see all the things we don’t have; so easy to compare our lives with others. As I have become more aware of this mental battle, it has helped me to recognize these lies before they can take root. Then I can redirect those thoughts, and take that struggle to prayer.

Another big challenge is in the many expectations. There are cookie exchanges, gift exchanges, Christmas cards to write, family gatherings, and gatherings with friends. All this is on top of your normal week of work and school schedules.

How do we do it all? We can’t. Something somewhere has to give. And then if you are like me, you feel guilty about it. I really like the concept of spending more time doing what you love at Christmas and letting go of those things that you really don’t enjoy. This is so freeing for me. Focus more on my giftings and less on the checklist. Take time to love on people or let others love on you! Let your gifts and abilities shine. Don’t get bogged down by unrealistic expectations.

After all, Christmas is about Christ. It’s about the grace God showed us in giving us the gift of Jesus. The gift of grace that we don’t deserve. As I think on this great gift of grace, I’m reminded that this gift should be the “lens” through which I see this season: Showing others grace and showing myself grace as I rest in Christ’s finished work. Looking through this lens is the only way I am able to let go of “all the things” and find spiritual rest and joy during this busy season.

Pointing my kids to the true reason for the season—this is just part of our daily conversation. In our nightly prayers, we thank God for the birth of Jesus, for sending his Son. We do some advent things with the kids as well… but that’s a work in progress. I just keep praying that God will open their eyes to his grace that is shown for them at Christmas.

For now, I will stick to what I love and what works for this season of life, baking for others, baking with my kids, parties, Christmas movies, and curling up on the couch with a book as the snow falls…

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him” (Romans 15:13).

Karen Stenberg attends Calvary Lutheran Church in Bergenfield, New Jersey—where her husband Daniel serves as pastor.

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