The calendar had barely flipped past November when I started getting the question.
“Are you ready for Christmas?”
Translation: “Do you have all your Christmas presents purchased and wrapped, your house impeccably decorated, 100 Christmas cards sent, dozens of cookies baked from scratch, and holiday family gathering plans finalized?”
My typical response is, “Uh . . . not yet, but I’m working on it.”
What they don’t see, is that under my ugly Christmas sweater, I’ve broken out in red and green hives. Just thinking about the expectations behind the inquiry stresses me out.
One of my coworkers, however, doesn’t let it phase him.
It was only a few days into December when someone lobbed the question to him during a staff meeting. Without losing a beat, he responded: “YES, I am ready for Christmas.”
At first, we didn’t know whether to be impressed or jealous. But then he left everyone speechless when he stated matter-of-factly, “I’m ready because I have purchased zero presents and that is exactly the number I plan to buy.”
Inwardly I applauded his audacity for bucking the system.
“How nice it would be if ‘being ready’ didn’t equate to running about in a frenzy for a month and going into credit card debt,” I thought.
Then one day, I was poring over my mile-long holiday “to-do” list and flipped on the radio for some background music. As I numbly hummed along to “Joy to the World,” a phrase suddenly broke through and hit me between the eyes:
“Let every heart, prepare Him room.”
Let every heart.
Prepare Him room.
In that moment, I was convicted that amid decking the halls, rehearsing Christmas music for church, and scouring Amazon for the perfect gifts, I had spent very little time focusing on the real reason for the season.
Being ready for Christmas has nothing to do with checking off the last items on our “to-do” lists. It has everything to do with opening our hearts wider for Jesus.
Unfortunately, preparing room for the Savior during Christmas doesn’t come easily for most of us. If anything, the secularization of the holiday, along with the sheer overload of activities, pulls us in the opposite direction.
Here are seven ideas to help you focus on Christ in the days leading up to Christmas.
1. Be intentional. Opening your heart to Jesus requires a choice, no matter what time of year. Be mindful that He is present with you, just as his name “Immanuel” (God with Us) describes. Ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you, and be observant for His answers. Choose thoughts and actions that strengthen your relationship with Him.
2. Pray. Keep a dialogue going with Jesus as you go about your daily routine. Remember, prayers don’t have to be elaborate, lengthy, or even spoken out loud. Think of them as “spiritual text messages” with someone you love and want to share your day with.
3. Read. Carve out time (even if it’s only five minutes a day) to read and reflect on Scripture, especially passages relating to Christ’s birth, such as Luke 2:1-20. You can also find numerous devotional materials and Christian books designed to help prepare your heart for Christmas.
4. Tune into music. While listening to “Frosty the Snowman” can be fun, also take time to sing or play Christmas songs that focus on Jesus. Music has a way of touching our souls like nothing else. Let the lyrics draw your attention to the Prince of Peace.
5. Connect with Believers. Being with others who are also seeking Jesus can create a synergy that strengthens your own faith and joy. Make it a point to attend church and take part in worship services where the music and messages center on Christmas.
6. Simplify. Consider scaling back on gifts, decorations and activities. Doing so can decrease your stress and make it easier to focus on Jesus. I experienced this dramatically two years ago when a period of grief caused me to forego most of the outward trappings of Christmas. You can read the full story here.
7. Take a break. Sometimes getting away for a few minutes can do wonders. One of my friends (a mother of four boys) recently recounted how a simple stroll helped her regain her perspective. “Though many tasks called my name,” she shared, “I stopped and went for a walk to prepare my heart to be at rest. I saw beautiful sights, prayed, and exercised. I was a new person by the walk’s end.”
As you countdown to Christmas, I hope you’ll make it a priority to prepare room in your heart for Jesus.
If you do, you’ll truly be “ready for Christmas.”
“ . . . I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” Luke 2:10b – 14 (NIV)
Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart, prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing