Tis the season to be   . It’s up to you to decide if ‘tis the season to be stressed or ‘tis the season to be filled with the wonder of Christmas. I know the holidays are a time of the year when the pressure is amplified. I am keenly aware of how difficult it is to prevent the “shoulds” and “oughts” from overshadowing the Holy season of Christmas. But believe it or not, you don’t have to have a frazzled Christmas.

Each December, I find myself anticipating the exhaustion that’s sure to ensue. I have three children, 10 grandchildren, a husband and a ministry to run. My schedule is completely unpredictable most days during any time of year, but when December comes, I feel as though an avalanche of added responsibilities has just landed on my desk.

Several years ago, I made a decision to reverse this stress and operate from a place of rest. It sounds too good to be true, but I’m going to tell you how you can make—and stick to—a commitment like this. If you do, your holiday season will be sweeter than ever before and the avalanche of to-dos will be replaced by the celebration the birth of Christ deserves.

The “To Don’t” List
To start with, I wrote down everything I wanted to accomplish during the holiday season. Next, I scratched off the unnecessary items—the “shoulds’ and ‘oughts”— most of these were things I felt I had to do simply because I always had. I realized most of these were just an indication of my need to strive for perfection.

What are the things on your to do list that aren’t necessarily there because they are honoring to the Lord? We ask Him to lead us and then we proceed with our own agendas. If we really want the Holy Spirit to lead us in the dance of life (particularly a Christmas waltz), then we need to stop stepping on His feet and dragging him along to our own music.

For me, this meant nixing things like sending Christmas cards and buying Christmas presents for everyone and his uncle. God never told me to do those things. Why do we push ourselves to do things we were never called to?

Having scratched off most of what was on my list, I asked the Lord to give me His list. If hearing from Him seems difficult, remember, He promised in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John that His sheep would know His voice. The best way to know His voice is to spend time reading the Bible. Learn His promises and become familiar with what He teaches through scripture. Sensing His leading will become natural when His truth is planted deep in your heart and mind.      

Now, armed with my fresh new “to do” list, I got excited about the things that would truly bless others and, most of all, the Lord. Next, I made a point to intentionally offer my calendar to the Lord each day. Having refined my plans and reduced my stress, I experienced the best Christmas season I can remember. His way is always the best way. His dance is always the most natural. His yoke truly is easy and the burden is light. 

Expect the Unexpected
Even the best plans can be interrupted by the demand of the urgent or an unexpected surprise. God’s Word tells us to submit our day to the Lord and He will establish it. He is faithful to this promise and the sacrifice is worth it. We must stay nimble and obedient. Even when we are certain our priorities are His priorities, He still has the freedom to reorder them. 

Work From Rest
Want to know the best part of recapturing Christmas? When you give yourself the grace not to be perfect and the freedom to cease striving, then you find rest. When you are free to rest, your strength is renewed and you are equipped to do work that glorifies God. Remember to use the space you have made by forgoing the “should’ and ‘oughts” to sit at the feet of Jesus. Talk to Him and listen. He longs to fill you with His words of encouragement.

God isn’t interested in how many things you check off of your list. He is interested in spending time with you. Remember, nothing you could ever do would make Him love you any more or less than He already does. You have been created in His image and for His glory. Rest in the promise that He will fill you with all you need to accomplish the tasks he has planned for you.

If you embrace the challenge to shake off the “requirements” of this busy season in favor of relishing the true meaning of this holiday, you’ll be glad you did. And you just might find that the lessons you put into practice will become a habit year round!

So, take the challenge. Commit to making God-honoring peace a priority this year. When you do, you’ll have your merriest Christmas yet.


Joanne Ellison is the founder of national non-profit Drawing Near to God based in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., she helps Christian women navigate their way around the distractions of life and into the presence of God. Through her ministry, Drawing Near To God, Joanne helps women navigate through the distractions of life and into the presence of God. She has been featured on FoxNews.com, is the author of more than 12 original Bible Studies and the popular 365-Day Devotional guide Drawing Near to God.

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