Christmas is a wonderful time for men and families, but it can also be extremely stressful. Not only do you have the demands of finishing the year at work, there are also presents to buy, decorating, "honey-dos" to take care of, holiday parties, and vacation plans. No wonder a recent American Psychological Association poll said that 69% of people are stressed by lack of time, lack of money, or the pressure to give or get gifts.
Too many men just end up letting the Christmas season happen instead of having a plan and working the plan. So, here is some help in developing a fool-proof plan to make this the greatest Christmas ever for your family.
1. Be Intentional - Reading this article is a great start. Now grab some paper or open a document on your computer and convert what you read in this article into an actual plan that you will execute. If possible, nail down some dates and times for the things you decide to do; if necessary, get the other information you need as soon as possible (consult with your wife about the family calendar) and then block off the time that you need.
2. Have Fun - Don't allow everyone to drift through your time together playing with their devices or watching football. Set aside some scheduled time as a group to do some fun things together. Get out and do an activity, such as putt-putt, ice skating, a visit to one of the "escape the room" places, etc. Set aside some times to play group games as a family as well. Try "Tribes" (10 to 20 people), "4 On a Couch" (8 to 15 people), or "Heads Up" on a smartphone (6 to 16 people). (Search the internet for descriptions and rules.)
3. Write Notes - Write a hand-written note to your wife and to each of your children. It doesn't have to be long and involved; just describe something specific you appreciate about them and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life. Consider writing a note also to your parents, mentors, former teachers, or friends. This may become a habit you want to extend throughout the year.
4. Spend Time Individually - Spend time one-on-one with your wife and each child during the holiday season. With busy schedules, it can be tough to make this happen spontaneously, so put it on the calendar. Take each child out for a meal and sneak a 15-minute walk with your wife. Get a babysitter and go on a special date. Choose a fun activity and take each child out individually to spend time with you alone. During this time, present them with the note or letter that you wrote.
5. Use a Devotional - If you are a person of faith, consider using a devotional guide to help you and your family experience the full meaning of the season. You can find short readings for each day of Advent in books, in many places online, and in a Bible app on your phone. You could also use a devotional with visual aids, such as the Jesse Tree, which tells the story of Jesus, starting with the creation. Our kids loved getting a chance to hang an ornament on the miniature tree. (Learn more by searching for "Jesse Tree" online).
6. Read a Book - There are a number of wonderful books that you can read with and to your family during Advent. Our family treasured Jotham's Journey (and its companions) by Arnold Ytreeide. Find a book that has short sections and begin the tradition of reading it together at night. It's okay if you miss a few nights; just make the commitment to catch up and stay on track so you can finish by Christmas day.
7. Serve Someone in Need - Our culture is consistently telling you and your children that Christmas is all about you. Yeah, you should buy people presents, but really you need to be thinking about what you want for yourself. Of course this is a dead end. The presents are never as good as we hoped they would be, and half of the toys end up broken or unused by February. Give your family a lasting memory of what Christmas is all about by serving someone during this holiday season. Volunteer at a rescue mission, serve as a secret Santa for a family that won't be able to buy gifts, help a widow or single mom with household tasks and decorating for Christmas, etc. There are a lot of ways to serve; find one and make a memory with your family.
8. Connect to a Church - Ultimately, Christmas is about the God of the universe coming as a man to save His people from their sins. People, not one person. We were never meant to experience life alone. Your Christmas traditions will be much richer if you live them out with friends and fellow members of your church. Attend the special worship services at your church. Join a small group and go to their Christmas get-together. Invite a few people from your church to join you for lunch after church one Sunday in Advent. These relationships will deepen the joy of the season for you and your family for years to come.