Good morning, Five Minute Families. We are glad to be back with you today. Life is short, and there are often reminders around us that we should take the risks that are holding us back, demonstrate our love as big as we feel inside, and forgive ourselves and others - all to live the abundant life Christ calls us into. Our lives are often marked by festivities and ceremonies - birthdays, graduations, funerals, and holidays - to name a few. Some people go all out for these ceremonies while other people are too overwhelmed with the weight of the moment - whether a good or bad moment - to even think of the ceremony aspect.
Kind of a deep beginning… but what are we really discussing today… Christmas decorations! Why decorations after such an opening? Well, as someone who has struggled with mild anxiety and depression, especially around the holidays, Christmas decorations have come to mean way more than just simple décor for me. My quickness in putting up decorations is often indicative of what is happening in my head and heart. Now, in full disclosure, we have zero - that’s right - zero decorations out right now, but this year it is due to construction projects and time, not emotions.
Whether you are a November 1, day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or ‘somewhere random’ decorating type of person, decorations are part of the ceremony of the celebration of Christmas. Decorations can bring smiles to saddened faces, and they can work to draw a family closer - if we allow them to. Of course, the stress of breakables, getting the tree just right, placement of knick-knacks, and more can divide us if we allow them, but a five-minute family knows that five minutes as a start can be the difference in connection or isolation. Let’s face it, in most households, the bulk of the decorating can fall on mama. That - in and of itself - can be so isolating. Though, of course, there are those folks who want to do all the decorating themselves. So, as long as you aren’t one of the ‘let me do it all myself’ folks, how do we incorporate everyone and make decorating for Christmas a good and wonderful time that focuses on Jesus?
Make sure you are working within an age-appropriate amount of time. Break up the decorating with crafts, snacks, or just simple down-time; this is important for families with young children or children with special needs. For those type-A personalities out there, make sure you start at a time that will allow you these breaks because as you begin to stress about the house being a mess, the more fun you take away from everyone else.
Be sure to assign age-appropriate tasks. Some families take turns having a kiddo put the tree topper on. Some families always have dad do it. Some families aren’t organized enough to remember who does it year to year and it is simply random. Whatever the tradition part, make sure that you have the kids have tasks that can allow them some level of autonomy so that they feel fully included and take pride and ownership of some of the decorating.
Scale it back or beef it up depending on the emotional, mental, and physical needs of the family members that year. Sometimes, you are ahead of the game and will be able to do a full advent calendar (by the way, these don’t need to be expensive, it can be a small single piece of candy separated daily from one candy container); you can be well-organized and do a full Jesse tree with tree and ornament creation; or even an elf on the shelf (or one of the alternatives such as shepherd on a search or the rascally reindeer). Some years, though, instead of adding a ‘Names of Jesus’ ornament each day, you may have to add them all at once in a condensed discussion time.
Add something new but keep the traditions that matter the most. We have to admit, some of us get bored having decorations the same way every year. By adding a new decoration or game to the decoration festivities, we can spice things up a bit but keep those elements that have come to mean the most to our family identity.
Another thing to include while decorating as a family is music. I was on a Christmas music strike for years. Other than Christmas Day, Christmas songs just bugged me, so on those years, Christian praise and worship music took its place. That way, I wasn’t irritated, but we were keeping our minds on our purpose for decorating in the first place.
Remember, Christmas decorations are not about putting on a show. They are not about outdoing your neighbors. They are not even about winning a prize in the hearts of your children or grandchildren. And, they can most certainly become a distraction from the point of all of our celebrating which is the birth of the Savior of the world. Christmas decorations should be an outward expression of wanting to pursue the joy of Jesus. The joy of simplicity in low-decorating years or the joy of complexity in extensive ones. He brings them both. Cherish one another in all of them. Be blessed!