3 Benefits of Christmas Countdowns

December 1st, 2004 – the day a Christmas tradition began for the Brown household. Our son unwrapped his early gift with the excitement of, well, a preschooler with a new present! It wasn’t just a gift for him, although he definitely saw it that way.

The ripped paper revealed a Lego Advent calendar set, one of many in the years to come. This quickly became his favorite activity of the season.

I know what you’re thinking. A Lego calendar? What’s spiritual about that? And you’re right. You won’t find any references to Legos in the Bible, but it wasn’t about the Legos at all. It was about what we found in the month of December that had been missing from our family life.

Through this simple version of an Advent calendar, our family found the benefits of counting down the days until Christmas.

I’d like to share three of those benefits with you here, along with links to Advent countdown ideas for you and your family. I pray these will bless you and help you develop new traditions, or maybe even revive old ones this year.

1. Counting down ensures my kids will get a few minutes each day of my undivided attention.

The holiday season brings with it joy, peace, and love. It also brings hectic schedules, commitments, and rushed days. Even though we think we are focusing on family time, in reality we may be focusing on deadlines and preparations instead.

In the mix of all the chaos, that highly sought-after family time can get swept aside.

When we start each morning or end each evening with a fun family activity, the tone of the entire day changes. Imagine our kids’ smiles when they wake up each December day ready to spend ten minutes with Mom or Dad. No cell phones, no tablets, just ten minutes to discover something special together!

My friend Lisa wrote a wonderful book called Countdown to Christmas: Unwrap the Christmas Story with Your Family in 15 Days. I read it last year, and highly recommend it. It is simple enough for the youngest children to enjoy, yet it also digs deep into Scripture for older children and grown-ups.

A simple moment set aside for gathering together lets our kids know we value time with them above anything else on our to-do lists. As a result, they will look forward to that time most of all.

2. Counting down builds our anticipation.

Christmastime is a favorite holiday for many reasons. It is special because we get to celebrate the birth of our Savior. We proclaim his Name in songs. We reconnect with his peace. We give because He gave everything so we could have the promise of eternal life.

And even though we celebrate on December 25th, something inspiring happens the first time we spot Christmas decorations popping up in stores at the beginning of November. Our hearts swell. Our anticipation builds.

Maybe it’s because we want the joy to last more than a day. Maybe we hope festive attitudes will replace all the hate and hurt going on in the world. Whatever the reason, we want the holiday to start early and end late. We want it to last and last.

Countdowns and Advent calendars help us make the most of every day, focusing on each reason to celebrate.

If you’re a crafty person like my friend Liz, you might like creating your own. Liz has a beautiful Advent calendar craft that counts down the days of December with the Names of Jesus. What better way to prepare our hearts for Christmas than studying all He means to us? For more on Liz’s Advent calendar craft, click this link.

3. Counting down strengthens our faith.

As we plan time with our families, let’s remember to set aside a few moments for our own quiet time with God.

A daily countdown serves as a reliable reminder to refocus each day on the reason we celebrate.

To guide your quiet time with God this season, here’s an Advent Prayer Journal by my friend Kathryn Shirey. God has given Kathryn a heart for helping others strengthen their prayer life, and her books on prayer have been a blessing to me. I know the Advent journal will bless you too.

However you choose to count down the days to Christmas this year, I pray God’s blessing over the time you reserve for honoring Him. May your family experience Jesus’ love and mercy this Christmas.

Kristine

How to Let Grace Set Your Pace through the Holidays, Part 2

The most joyful season of the year. It’s here, and with it comes the possibility of rushed schedules, tired bodies, and frustrated hearts.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With intention, focus, and a little time invested, we can change a hectic holiday season to a time when our spirits are refreshed and renewed. Are you with me?

 

 

Last week, we looked at the first two things we must do in order to Let Grace Set Our Pace through the Holidays. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, go there first by clicking the title link.

Today we will explore two more musts to help us have the best Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 

3. If I need to say no, I'll do so in love. Then I won't fret over hurt feelings.

One year I came down with bronchitis right before Thanksgiving. As a result, we weren’t able to take our yearly trip to Alabama to visit family. I felt awful. Not just about the bronchitis, but about having to miss seeing my mother-in-law on Thanksgiving Day.

I’ll never forget what she said to me though. It’s an ideal she lived by, and taught to us as well.

It doesn’t matter what day we get together, as long as we get to see each other. It’s not about the day, but being together when we can.

We didn’t have to visit on that exact day. We could have Thanksgiving any day of the year! I always remember her words when the demands of visiting everyone over the holidays just gets to be too much.

We may need to make plans in January for a weekend visit, or even February. The most important thing is to let go of the guilt over hurting someone’s feelings.

We can’t do it all, and feeling responsible for everyone else’s feelings won’t help.

 

4. Reflect on my schedule daily, reminding myself of my priorities.

Now that we’ve done the work of setting things in order, the rest of our schedule can be filled with fun activities that will bring joy to the season.

But before adding anything to the calendar, take a close look at it each day. Read through those things you identified as most important, and don’t be tempted to erase and replace.

Did your Sunday school plan an impromptu gift exchange this Saturday night? Did your son’s teacher lose her volunteers for the class party, and she needs you to spend all day tomorrow at school?

If you already have things on the calendar, prayerfully consider your options before making any changes. Remember your priorities. Will these new activities add extra stress for you and your family?

Taking time to review the schedule each morning will help you make the best possible decisions for the day ahead.

 

Above all, let’s agree together to remember why we are celebrating. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year bring an abundance of opportunities to reflect on God's gift to us.

Let’s focus on Him through the holidays, and enjoy growing closer to our Lord this year.

Kristine