I’m starting right now. Today, I am asking for God’s help, and here’s how my prayer goes:

Dear Father in Heaven, Please help me spend my holiday season in such a way that when Christmas Day comes, I will be more aware of Your presence in Your Son Jesus Christ, not less. Give me, by Your grace, a pace of living and working that leaves room for me to receive Your rich and daily graciousness to me. Amen.

The “holiday season” is quickly approaching. For those at work in youth ministry, whether as volunteers or professionals, we know that the Advent and Christmas seasons hold such promise and excitement. We all genuinely long to celebrate Jesus’ birth and help others to do the same. The danger is that in “putting on” Christmas for others, we often miss it in our own hearts and lives. The world–and even the Church, at times–understands holiday preparation as frenzied activity. Make this, bake that. Buy this, wrap that. Produce this, decorate that. The problem is that following this “frenzy” strategy for the holidays most often leads to an empty heart when January rolls around and the office is suddenly quiet and still. It is so easy to become a person who speaks about the coming and arrival of God’s Son, and yet doesn’t sense it as real in your own heart and life. The best examples for our youth are adults who tend to the presence of God in their own lives as well as sharing that love with others.

With that in mind, I propose a few strategies to consider as you enter the holiday season:

Make TIME for what matters: if you don’t put the “quality” stuff in the calendar, it is not likely to happen! Consider taking your year-long calendar out right now (or when you can take at least a half an hour to do this) and putting some of these kinds of events on your calendar: (it might surprise you to note that these aren’t “biggie” events!)

  • Daily quiet time (I call mine “Face Time”–Face-to-Face with God) using a good devotional is often a help.
  • A bi-weekly or even monthly walk with someone you love.
  • Some (at least two) nights a week where you block the time out to stay home and be with yourself, your spouse, and/or your children without having to run anywhere.
  • A lunch date with your spouse or a good friend.
  • Youth events that are truly celebrations of Jesus’ coming: full of rich fun, service, and God-connections.

Consider some other things when looking at your calendar:

  • Try not to make commitments that back right up to each other, making it harder not to feel frenzied.
  • Build in breaks in your day: go for a quick walk around the block or even inside the building where you work or get up and stretch.
  • Get realistic about reconnecting with friends, with email/blog updates and card-writing. Don’t overdo it, but take advantage of “technology” to stay connected with people who know you well.

The key to all this is keeping the commitments you make in that calendar. The Christmas Season has led us to know anew that God comes in Jesus Christ. By His grace, our pace this year can be one that refreshes us and renews our awareness of God’s great love for us.

Starting today!