Ask Chuck: How to Escape the Madness of the Holidays?

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Dear Chuck,

There seems to be an unending amount of "crazy" in the world. How can I keep my money, time and heart peaceful during the holidays?

Thanks,

Holiday Jitters

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Chuck Bentley

Dear Holiday Jitters,

My pastor, Ronnie Batchelor, describes this as the time of year when "... we all experience the familiar unnerving sense that we're approaching the brink – something akin to the clack-clack-clack-clack ascent of the rollercoaster when couples instinctively grasp each other's hands and exchange nervous looks that communicate, 'Here we go!' We just hang on and hold our collective breath because we're in for quite a ride!

"The next season will almost certainly be a jostling, frenzied blur of parties and baking and travel and pumpkin spice...and obscene amounts of food until (as the last strains of Auld Lang Syne fade), we all coast back into the station and exhale – sometime about mid-January."

So, like you asked, we all need to consider ... how do we, in fact, experience peace during the upcoming Christmas season? Can we find peace in being still, relishing the precious moments of the season, in quiet anticipation of each day? Yes, we can.

Christmas is a time to pause, ponder, and praise the gift of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Rather than succumbing to the unwanted burden of financial and social obligations, we must intentionally seek stillness to hear the voice of God and find strength to sacrificially serve and share His love with others. Much of our loss of peace comes with the financial pressures we feel when the emphasis of the season is on buying gifts.

Overspending is the opposite of how Christians should celebrate. It creates stress and robs us of the ability to save and give generously to our churches and those in need. Likewise, time, must be stewarded as carefully as money. The older I get, the faster it seems to fly. Don't squander it on worthless endeavors – but seek ways to grow in faith, reduce distractions, and serve others.

This requires intentional planning. Just as Jesus had to get away from the crowds, so must we, to renew the heart, mind, and body. He tells us to come to Him when weary and heavy laden, and He will give us rest. (Matthew 11:28)

We're to "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) He, who silenced the storm and hushed the sea is more than capable of calming our anxious hearts. We can be still, and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10) For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)

With complete dependence upon our mighty God, we can say "No" to the demands of the world and joyfully celebrate the birth of Him who fills us with His peace. Let's honor Christ this Christmas season with sincere and humble hearts and experience the peace that He gives.

Budget

  • Don't overspend. There's often beauty in simplicity. Scale back and emphasize meaningful gifts vs. expensive gifts.
  • Search thrift shops for ornaments and decor. Cut your own holly, magnolia or pine branches. Stud oranges or apples with cloves.
  • Seek experiences that don't cost much by attending concerts, parades, seeing Christmas lights, playing board games, working puzzles, telling stories and reading Christmas books. Experience God's handiwork walking, hiking, playing with the children outside, watching the sunrise or observing the stars at night.
  • Bake Christmas cookies. Drink hot chocolate or coffee with candy canes.
  • Sing Christmas carols and open your home to the lonely.
  • Be creative and focused. Make cards by hand. Use your talents to draw, build, carve, write, photograph, record, paint or sew something that your loved one will remember because of your labor of love.

Be Brave

  • Say "No" to activities that aren't necessary or conducive to the good of your family.
  • Don't compare — it causes pride, envy or despair.
  • Unplug! Turn off the phones, TVs and laptops.
  • Sleep in and don't feel bad about it! Have fun! Laugh and create happy memories.
  • Make a gift theme for the season at your home such as food, photos, handmade, retro, etc. Challenge everyone to be creative and frugal.

Be Disciplined

  • Plan and keep a calendar of what you want to do.
  • Prepare daily advent readings, sing carols every day, phone and write letters to loved ones.
  • Cook, shop and wrap ahead. Prepare a few extra gifts — just in case.
  • Give out of your abundance: decorations, clothes, time, talents, and money.
  • Fill your home with relaxing sounds and smells that bring peace. Start a family journal to record your blessings. Gratitude brings contentment.

Pick the music that brings your focus back to Christ and His peace. My wife finds peace and joy in the words from the Sovereign Grace song, He Who is Mighty:

"Now my soul magnifies the Lord, I rejoice in the God Who saves, I will trust His unfailing love, I will sing His praises all my days."

Thank you for the honest question. I hope these tips help you escape the madness of the season and truly enjoy your celebration this Christmas. And if you're looking for a practical tool to help you stay focused on Christ this Christmas and in the year ahead, I'd encourage you to enroll in Crown's online MoneyLife Personal Finance Study. The 7 week course is focused on being faithful stewards of all we have, no matter how much or how little. You can learn more here!

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.