We’re living in stressful times, and I don’t have to start listing the circumstances that make this year tough.
You have your own circumstances.
They aren’t identical to mine, but they carry their own challenges, and if nothing else, wouldn’t it be nice if God granted us all the gift of little more peace on earth this Christmas?
I mull this over after the tree is wired to the wall in the corner of the living room.
It dawns on me as the Christmas bulbs glow in a rainbow of color: Peace on Earth has already come to dwell among us. The Prince of Peace left his throne and came down to walk on this muddy planet alongside us – to wash our feet, heal our diseases, and show us how to live – and I’m so busy keeping up with the pace of my calendar that I’m missing him.
A Sacramental Way of Living to Reduce Stress at Christmas
The thought takes me back to a journey I took last year at this time. I was trying to figure out how to navigate my new life with three kids, and the Lord led me to a single word: Sacramental.
I sensed God inviting me to show up and participate in my daily moments with the same sort of mindfulness as in the slow, spiritual act of taking the Lord’s Supper. It was a season of learning to wash dishes, fold laundry, cook dinner, and eat meals in a way that was wholly present, fully mindful, and always watching for Emmanuel – God with us.
This year let’s fight back against stress at Christmas by embracing a sacramental mindset in the tasks set before us. Here’s what this might look like:
1. Pair prayer with a repetitive Christmas task
Consider your least-favorite Christmas task. Does wrapping gifts send you over the edge? Do you feel frazzled and stressed as you pull the boxes from the shelves in the basement and try to untangle the long strings of lights? Does the cooking, baking, card-sending, or shopping overwhelm you with stress at Christmas?
Last year I tried something new: Pairing my two least-favorite Christmas tasks with prayer. I prayed for my loved ones as I wrapped their gifts in the quiet of the basement, and I prayed for my friends as I addressed the tall stack of Christmas cards.
I refused to hurry through these two tasks. My mindset was to encounter God as I used my time to bless loved ones with cards and gifts.
Something inside me shifted. Instead of burdens to complete, these tasks offered space for my soul to rest while I worked – space that felt something like a sanctuary.
Imagine what your life would look like if you picked one routine daily task and decided to transform the task into a quiet escape with God – a sanctuary of sorts. When it’s time to complete the task, you go to a quiet place, lose yourself in the moment, and open your heart to receive impressions from the Lord.
Imagine what your life would look like if you picked one routine daily task and decided to transform the task into a quiet escape with God – a sanctuary of sorts. You talk to him. He breathes life into you. You are restored.
Christmas is the perfect time to begin this habit of creating sanctuary tasks in your life. Instead of hiding inside of a bag of Doritos or a box of Twinkies – instead of slipping away into a Netflix binge or an hour scrolling through some social media feed – pick one household task that must be done, pursue it slowly, and meet with God in the process.
2. Cut back on stress at Christmas by carving out space to feed your soul
What feeds your soul?
Long walks beneath open skies, quiet candlelit moments, worship music, and good books fill my soul.
This time of year is a good time to create space for activities that feed your soul every single day – for even ten minutes per day.
Turn out the lights, turn off the screens, and tune into some Christmas music while you bask in the glow of your Christmas tree for an evening. Drink hot cocoa and read a good book. Take a long walk over frozen earth. Play board games with your kids. Build a snowman. Knit a scarf. Paint a landscape. Dust off the piano. Try out a new recipe.
Lastly, instead of getting caught up in all you have to do this month, create space each day for something you want to do. Make it non-negotiable.
3. Reduce stress at Christmas by chasing beauty
Throughout the next few weeks, pause in the midst of your ordinary tasks and find something beautiful. Stand there with it for just a few seconds longer than you might normally stick around.
It might be a clean cup in the dish drainer or a white beam of afternoon sunlight. It could be the easy smile on the face of a loved one or lacy frost on a morning windowpane.
The King of Kings bent down from heaven and came to live among us. He wants to shower you with good gifts every day of your life. No matter how dark this season is for you, chase beauty today. It is there if you will simply peel back the scales from your eyes.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Stacey Pardoe