“What if time grew on trees?” ~Hayley DiMarco, A Woman Overwhelmed
When I read this question in a Bible study, I confess my thoughts drifted first to space on a full calendar and then to a cozy nook in our local library. Time growing on trees would mean I would be able to read all the books! It would mean I could sleep in and still get a great workout every day. It would mean I wouldn’t miss any of my favorite TV shows.
The tension of time seems exacerbated in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The extra shopping, travel, end-of-the-year projects for work, and the ramping up of sports practices for my kids all seem to collide in early December. The tension comes with the reminder at every turn that this season is supposed to be about preparing for Christmas.
I don’t mean preparing for Christmas in a commercialized way. Don’t get me wrong; it’s more about people. I’m looking forward to my fifth grader’s school play. I can’t wait to explore Chicago at Christmas with my nieces for their first time. I’ll enjoy watching people I love open the gifts I’ve chosen for them, and I’ll love opening my gifts, too. But all of the rushing around, planning, preparing, and holiday extras can inch out hours of the day and draw my focus away from what I need to be doing.
Traditionally, Christmas has not been the holiday where gratitude has taken center stage in my circles of influence. Still, I have found, it is impossible for me to reflect on the wonder of the miracle of Christmas without entering a position of thankfulness. Jesus chose to become a baby to one day stand in the gap as my Savior. It all began on Christmas night. The humility and vulnerability exemplified in this act are astounding. Jesus separated himself from heaven, knowing all that would transpire.
December’s time restraint often requires a heart inventory on my part. Matthew 6:19–21 distinguishes my time tension well:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (NIV).
The treasures of Christmas go well beyond time spent with family and the exchanging of gifts, but it takes discipline on my part to carve out a chance to acknowledge it. An exercise in my study of the book A Woman Overwhelmed revealed it isn’t a matter of having more time in the day.
The tension between my calendar space and daily duties is a direct reflection of what I choose to say yes to or no to. Have I filled my days with activities I prioritize over what I know my heart needs to stay in a position of gratitude? Am I choosing to elevate treasures that can be destroyed or stolen?
The Christmas season reveals what I can hide during other months of the year. My choices are often selfish, focused on earthly desires instead of time spent with God. Thankfully, God is always present, and each December provides a new opportunity to let gratitude dominate the holiday season in my heart.
I’ve found that focusing on an Advent devotion helps. Each year I try to find a new one. She Reads Truth developed one last year for the whole family. Additionally, I have learned to Christmas shop throughout the fall instead of leaving it for the last weeks. Finally, as a family, we don’t say yes to every opportunity that comes up. We protect our calendar during the school break by spending fewer days traveling in exchange for quiet days at home. We may explore our town, or rent movies and stay in our pajamas all day.
I’ve learned that when my mind has time to slow down, my heart will quickly follow. For me, taking the time to focus first on God through a seasonal devotion followed by breathing space to rest is the formula for removing the tension of time at Christmas.