Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

How to have the Christmas you really want

Everything is shimmering, red and gold. Stores are brimming with baubles that sing of the season, and it’s easy to get caught up in them. Still, the craving for new and pretty makes my heart feel weary and hollow. Is this the source of the Christmas magic? Is this the holiday I want?

I want to savor every moment of the season. The past few years, I’ve been looking for ways to make it feel beautiful instead of rushed and worn thin. I’ve found that, as always, it truly is better to give than receive.

Here are some ways I’m making a little Christmas magic of my own this year:

Smile first

The frenzy and crowds make this introvert’s pulse rise every time. I want out, far from the maddening press of people. My natural bent is to push my heart back and away, to disconnect.

Instead, I’m trying to give the dignity people deserve by smiling first, every time I make eye contact. It’s harder than I expected, but sometimes the moment of real, human, soul-to-soul exchange is like unwrapping a gift with a stranger.

Write a real letter

I’m a terrible card writer – I’ve never mastered the art of the Christmas mailing (though last year, we managed to get out a New Year’s card).

But one year, a sweet lady reached out and mentioned her son, who I knew in high school, was in prison and could use a note of encouragement and some prayer. I was uncertain, didn’t know what to say, but something in my heart jumped. I didn’t have answers, but simple kindness can be the best answer.

You might not know anybody in prison, but you probably know somebody aching this year. It could be the friend who had a miscarriage or the elderly lady at church facing the first Christmas without her husband of fifty years or the coworker with a sick family member. Taking a few minutes to write a heartfelt note could be the most meaningful gift you could give this year.

(Note: Hannah Brencher’s project, More Love Letters, is a beautiful way to make a little letter-writing magic of your own. Jump in on the holiday campaign to brighten up somebody’s season.) 

Give something handmade

Slowing down the holidays and putting my hands to work helps my heart engage in giving. When my budget tells me I can’t give many store-bought gifts, it’s an opportunity to give a piece of myself. Even if it’s just a sweet treat from the kitchen, I can’t get enough of the joy of saying, “I made this for you.”

Give gifts that matter

Micah and I dream of financial success that allows us to say yes to as many worthy causes as possible. Right now, we can’t do that, but we don’t want to wait to make meaningful giving a priority.

We include a giving fund in our budget and add to it monthly. It’s a small percentage of our income, but the fund grows over time. When we come across needs this time of year (like the office Angel Tree), we get to say yes without hesitation.

Another way to give meaningful gifts is to shop social enterprises (businesses that exist to support a worthy cause). Your purchase may help fight sex trafficking or poverty, or help provide clean water to developing nations.

Stay tuned! I’m working on a list of small businesses that make gorgeous gifts and do great work around the world 🙂

Give time

Sometimes, slowing down to give time is the best gift we can offer. Being there for those who need a little extra help or whose hearts are aching this season often means more than any tangible present.

One year, all my sister wanted for Christmas was a date night with her husband – their first in months. She had an infant and, in a big city far from our hometown, nobody to leave the kids with. It seemed insignificant, but when I visited and they spent a bit of time out as a couple, it meant the world to them.

Hear the story with fresh eyes

I never want to be numb to the reason for Christmas. I fight to remember it’s not about a sweet nativity scene with lambs and cattle. This is the unexpected fulfillment of a love story coming after us since before the dawn of time.

I soak in the lyrics of classic carols that are rich in theology, promise, and hope. I reread the nativity story, digging deeper in study.

Advent devotionals help. I’ve gone through Ann Voskamp’s “The Greatest Gift,” which is wonderful. This year, it’s “for you, love: the advent collection” by Ronne Rock & Courtney Nowakowski.

Above all else, indulge in the awe

We love seeing the world light up and kids laughing in wonder at the season. But in the midst of sparkling lights, sweet treats, and loved ones, remember to stop and breathe.

Let the madness of God astound you, that He was emptied of His power and came to earth in frail infancy. Be awed that He, though perfect, became sin so we could become His righteousness. It strikes me wild and makes my heart beat faster. I see that great gift in every other.

This is my prayer for you this Christmas: that your heart would be struck wild by this crazy love story of Immanuel, God with us, and that every sweet moment would echo that song in your soul.

7 Replies

  1. What a beautiful piece right here!! Your words have truly touched me Sarah. Because you asked, I try to make my Christmas magic by service others (just as you did or will do for your little sister).

    1. Thanks so much, Fiona! Serving others is such a great way to make Christmas matter. I love that!

  2. I love these ideas. I’m an introvert too, and while the hustle and bustle of Christmas adds to the atmosphere of anticipation, I don’t want to be in the middle of it!

    Time is a wonderful gift to give. I wish my family members would think of that. I have a couple of kids, and I have to do my writing at 4 in the morning. How psyched would I be to be given an evening of nothing to do but write?!

    I bet you will get a lot out of this Christmas because you’re giving with your heart and soul. 🙂 Merry Merry!

    1. Kate, if you lived near me I would gladly give you an evening to write…then you would also get a morning to sleep in! Thank you so much, as always, for the support and encouragement.

  3. Leah Weybright, said Sister

    The gift of time is seriously a huge one. When Sarah gave us a night out, it didn’t just say to me “here is a present” but it said to me “I value what you value.” Investing in others lives is the easiest way for me to experience God in this life. I still am thankful for that date night.

  4. Angie

    This was beautiful! Thank you! I’m heading in to my first Christmas without my kids, after my 24 year marriage fell apart. I’ve been looking for ways to keep it meaningful and positive, instead of allowing myself to shut down and get weepy. I know the important part isn’t the actual date of December 25. . .but it’s still hard to keep that in perspective when I won’t see them for a week straight over Christmas. Some people dream of their careers, but I dreamed of being a wife and mother. It’s hard to figure out who I am on my own, as my young adult kids need me less and less (or at least, in different ways).

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