“Where’d the magic go?”
That’s the heart’s cry of countless adults every time the holiday season rolls around. We long for the days when wonder was the only feeling we had come late November. We were excited and believed anything could happen, that dreams could come true! But somewhere along the line something broke. Not only did the magic seem to go away, but even the basic sense of joy disappeared.
I think it’s because the older we get the more responsible we become. Now that we’re grown-ups we have stuff to do. We don’t get to just be there; we don’t get to just enjoy, we have to produce. There are cookies to bake, presents to buy, boxes to wrap, and parties to attend. The most wonderful time of the year is often the most stressful time of the year. It’s why we get annoyed when we come across the rare person that’s giddy when the radio starts playing Christmas carols before Thanksgiving (Confession: I listen to Christmas music all year… I just can’t help it!). But I don’t think it has to be this way. I think that even for the person who likes Christmas the least, it can be a season of joy, fun, and beyond all that, full of wonder. So here are a few ways to bring the magic back. Maybe a few ways to be a little less responsible.
- Slow down. I know, you just thought about closing your internet browser because I sound like an idiot talking that way. I get it. You can’t stop. You can’t just not go to the office party. You can’t just not buy gifts for your family. You can’t just not bring a dish to pass for the block party. You can’t just not. But I don’t mean physically, I mean mentally. In those moments, the very moments that make the memories, stop to cherish them. Protect that moment in your mind. Look around the room. Smile at each face and thank God for them. With each of the eight dozen gifts you’ll wrap, thank God for the one you’re giving it to. Ask Him to bless their holiday. Slow down without stopping, because I know you can’t do that
- Sing loud for all to hear. I know, that’s not original to me. Buddy the Elf was the one that famously said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” Yes, the songs can be cheesy. Even the ones at church can be super high and out of your range, but sometimes we need to force ourselves to participate. Did you know singing uses a different part of your brain than speaking? And science is showing that music significantly lowers anxiety. So just try singing Jingle Bells and Silent Night this year—see what happens.
- Spend time with kids. The Bible tells us that bad company corrupts good character. Well maybe we’re hanging out with too many grown ups. That magic we’ve lost is still very present in kids, and if you spend any amount of time with them they’ll share it with you. They’re still completely irresponsible, so they aren’t stressed out when it comes to this time of year. No, they’ve actually been looking forward to it! Ask them questions about what they want for Christmas. Ask them what their favorite ornament on the tree is. Ask them about what they’re getting or making for someone else. I promise you’ll smile.
- Watch your favorite Christmas movie alongside someone else. The best movies are ones you share with others. It’s tradition in our home that we watch at least one Christmas movie as a family every week between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s always a mess of popcorn kernels, spilled hot chocolate, and too many questions to find answers for…but it’s great. Even if you aren’t married or have kids, invite some friends over and make a night of it. Watching Elf? Dress up. Watching A Christmas Story? Have a bb-gun shooting contest…just don’t shoot your eye out, kid.
- Make it spiritual. Confession: I don’t see the jingle bells and holly as the opposite of Jesus. I look at it as the biggest birthday party imaginable for the greatest one imaginable. Think of how much decorating you do for your kids’ birthday parties. Streamers, balloons, and cake are that much different than tinsel, ornaments, and cookies (did you think I’d say fruit cake?). The “holidays” for me, whether the world wants to see it the same way or not, are the largest and most extravagant celebration ever. And He deserves every bit of it.
Nothing too game-changing here. But hopefully it makes your season bright. Merry Christmas everyone! And just think, on December 26, Christmas is just 365 days away…
After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.