Wouldn’t you love to live in a Norman Rockwell painting or on a Currier and Ives card in December? Christmas is when we want to roast chestnuts on an open fire, deck the halls with boughs of holly, ride in a one-horse open sleigh, hang our stockings by the chimney with care, and have ourselves a merry little Christmas.

Year after year we try to create a perfect picture-postcard experience during the holidays, but the effort seems counterproductive. Instead of the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas can be the most stressful time of the year—a whirlwind of traveling, shopping, spending, entertaining, and even churching. It’s hard to have joy in a whirl.

According to the American Psychological Association, seven out of ten people feel stress from not having enough time for their Christmas activities, and the same number worry about having enough money.

Not surprisingly, most of the stress falls on women. Far more women than men worry about having enough money for gift-giving, and women are more likely to take on added workloads by running to purchase last-minute gifts and working overtime in the kitchen to feed all the guests.[1]

So how can you bring joy to the whirl?


Choose a Joy Verse for the Season

Why not begin by choosing a joy verse for the season? There are hundreds of texts about joy and rejoicing in the Bible. Comb through the Bible for a verse and say something like: This Christmas the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). This Christmas I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle (Psalm 27:6). This Christmas my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation (Psalm 35:9). This Christmas, I will rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4).

            Following through on that takes intentional planning. We’ll give you several ideas to bring joy to the whirl, but the first one is—plan in advance to be joyful and to give joy.


Identify Joy Killers

Next identify the things that steal your joy. If it’s overscheduling, remember you control that in advance. When I’m having trouble saying “No” to an invitation, I decide if that event can go on without me. If it can, it makes the decision to politely decline much easier.

Another joy stealer comes when we handle memories the wrong way. We treasure our memories, but we shouldn’t let them cast us down. View your past from an eternal perspective as part of God’s tapestry. In every event there’s an item of praise. In every memory, there’s a foothold for thanksgiving. Whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report—think on these things (Philippians 4:8).


Implement a Joy Plan

Then implement a joy plan. If more stresses you out, decide to do less this year. Perhaps create a holiday ambiance with fewer decorations. Focus on a tree, a festive centerpiece, a mantel display, or a well-placed nativity set—but not on all four. Use inexpensive candles here and there to create simple warmth. Don’t unbox all your decorations.

Do less shopping. Decide in advance what you can afford per person, keep the names and amounts on a private list, and check them off throughout the month. Don’t try to do it all at once, and stick to your budget.

Do less entertaining. Be selective where you go and whom you invite. Don’t be afraid to ask friends to bring a dish or two if you’re having a function.

If you’re traveling, cut your trip short a day to give yourself time at home before heading back to work. This isn’t always possible, of course, but a buffer-day can be a lifesaver.


Be a Joy Giver

            Most of all, remember that you’re managing your holidays not just for your own benefit but so you’ll be more cheerful for others. Emotions are infectious. If you’re stressed, your tension will spread like the tide. But a smile, a cheerful word, a kind look, a laugh, a warm embrace, an uplifting conversation—those are gifts that go right to the heart and spread the true spirit of Christmas.

            If you’re joyful in the whirl, you can bring joy to the world. Let’s make sure we don’t exclude the Lord Jesus from any aspect of His birthday month.


[1] “Women and the Holiday Blues” at http://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/news/holiday-blues.aspx.