On Christmas Eve of 2020, we ate take-out Chinese and watched an online church service, desperately missing our extended family and our special holiday traditions together. Later, on that oh-so-strange night, I lay on the couch, tears falling, and told myself that I would never again take family and friends for granted. Or crowds, live church, in-person shopping, or in-person anything! Shoulder to shoulder, face to face, hand to hand. People.
These last few years have changed all of us.
In the curriculum called the Covid Years, I’ve learned an old lesson in a new way: relationships are vital. We all know this. And I’ve always felt this as fact but wow, was it drilled down in those weird times. I vowed then to intentionally make my loved-ones and Jesus my focus each holiday. Despite the oddness and sadness, there was a beautiful unfussiness in the 2020 holiday and life seemed slower.
Yes, responsibilities are important and necessary, and during the holidays, many of us juggle more than our typical load. So often, I struggle to get it all done while remaining present. There is a boost in my self-esteem, a feeling of value that surges when I am uber-productive. I’m addicted to checking things off my list to the detriment of my relationships. I love people, and I love God, but if I’m not careful, I’m swept up in my typical seasonal trap. Yes, most items on my list are others-focused (buying gifts, charitable giving, baking, cooking, house tasks, etc.) But I want (and need) to connect deeply in my relationships at Christmas.
Perhaps a bit of Patty (or Paul) Productivity lives in you as well?
When we dive into the Christmas story, we find it oozes in human dynamics: God and Jesus, Mary and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, Mary and Jesus, the shepherds, the Wiseman, and even Herod. The Bible is replete with kinship and family ties. I believe the relationship we share with Christ is the utmost purpose of our lives. Relationships matter to God and people were Jesus’s priority in His time here. He said in John 13:34 (NIV), “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
I want to love as He loved.
Often, it’s a powerful struggle not to drift back into my default, Patty Productivity mode. And that’s okay because I intentionally try to catch myself when I see it happening. The old me who often loves her tasks more than pausing to be with her dear ones and her Savior. The one who adds extra stuff and fluff that can be loosened or even let go of. My holiday intention is a practice, not always perfect, and sometimes messy.
I am crazy about this season and want to savor the moments and make my time with others count. So, to take this holiday intention down to the practical level, I start and end each day with Jesus. This is a simple way for me to evaluate the day ahead with my journal after reading the Word and from a devotional book. Asking myself and praying about how I will spend my hours and who and what I will focus on in the day ahead. As best as I can, I take things off my list and add humans, even if all I can do that day is a quick phone call or text to check in.
Then, most nights, with a cup of tea, I sit in front of the Christmas tree and mentally assess how I spent my day and who I spent it with. The memory of Christmas 2020 ever before me as a reminder of the gift of people.
For you, it might look like taking time to make a call each day during your kid’s nap to connect with a loved one. Or getting with a friend and sharing your Christmas intentions early in the season and then checking in with one another as the weeks go by. Maybe it is picking the best time each day for reflection based on your schedule. Perhaps, plan your season before it begins and margin time for people by scheduling them on your calendar.
Oh, how quickly seasons pass. This day, this Christmas, this moment will never come again. There is a beautiful simple joy of time in another’s presence, unhurried, unharried. Jesus and others. Face to face, hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder. Therefore, let us choose to be this kind of person: one who is present for our people. Not only in this season of holiday busyness but in the 365 New Year’s days to come.
Photos by Libby Penner on Unsplash and Debby Hudson on Unsplash