Christmas is around the corner. With it comes mixed feelings and often a degree of apprehension. We wonder what this year will be like without the presence of one we love. We know that the holidays highlight dysfunctional families and relationships. We still have mountains of tasks to complete and gifts to buy and want it to be so perfect. We dread the frenetic pace that comes along with the season.

Everyone puts on a happy face during Christmas, but the truth beneath the surface is quite different. Christmas is hard for so many people. We don’t have the protection of our routines that shield us from painful emotions. Since it is meant to be the happiest season of the year, we wonder what is wrong and our emotions sink down unspoken and unacknowledged.

How might we reimagine these last days before Christmas, and particularly Christmas day? How might we experience Christmas this year the way we know in our hearts it is meant to be experienced?

Choose to go in slow motion. When I go running, which is not that often, I know that the only way that I can last for any meaningful distance is to find a manageable pace and maintain that pace throughout my run. The minute I increase my speed, I decrease my stamina. That is what happens at Christmas. The schedules and mere adrenalin of Christmas double our speed. Then we see how long we can last before we collapse in exhaustion. What would happen if we purposefully decreased our speed and left wide margins in between events? On Christmas day, perhaps we can leave a little more time for unwrapping presents or even incorporate a little down time at some point during the day.

Intentionally cast-off stress. Christmas day is wired for stress. Sometimes, we are able to mitigate stress by acknowledging its presence and then choosing to not give in. We may realize that cousin Fred pushes our button and choose that this time we are going to let it go. This is not likely to eliminate the inherent stress in the day, but it can lessen the stress.

Adjust our expectations. Christmas day is life on steroids. We feel higher highs and lower lows. When we enter in with these expectations, the day is a bit easier. Even talking with a friend about the day helps as we come to realize that the season is difficult for most people.

Enjoy the gifts but love the people. The sweet gifts that we receive and give are a means to an end. The gifts we give are meant to communicate the love we feel. The gifts are fun, but the people are the reason we give. Christmas would be so much better if we treated it a little more like Thanksgiving, with its simplicity in focus. Christmas is a time to express love. We avoid being distracted by the pace and clutter of Christmas. We choose to remember that we are with the people we love the most, even when those people try our patience.

Remember the reason for the season. Christmas is the tangible expression of God’s love for us. God came down as a tiny baby to show us that He is with us and that He loves us. This is the reason the day exists. I pray that I will not be distracted from celebrating Jesus this Christmas.

I hope everyone that reads this has a Christmas full of joy and rest and love. I pray that we will all choose to remember Jesus and honor His birthday as the most important part of Christmas day.