Lynne Hybels, who ministers on behalf of third-world communities and is married to megachurch pastor Bill Hybels, recently wrote an article for the her.meneutics site at Christianity Today describing the progressively more laid-back, less frantic approach she has taken to Christmas over the course of several years. She buys fewer gifts, decorates only minimally, and no longer sends Christmas cards. This year, she decided to eliminate the huge party she used to give every December 23rd. Though the party was a lot of work, she writes that it always seemed worth having—until it didn’t. She and her husband finally decided that “we might serve our friends better by giving them a December night off rather than another party to attend.”
Lynne mentions age as a factor in the change she’s undergone:
“Here’s the main difference between me at 29 and me at 59: I used to think that everything mattered. Now I realize that very little matters.”
As we age, our priorities change. Perhaps much of what makes Christmas frantic has to do either with desiring to please others or with comparing ourselves to those around us and thinking we should do what they are doing. By midlife, though, both people-pleasing and social comparison start to lose importance. They used to matter a good deal, but now don’t matter very much at all.
I’ve never tried to do a lot at Christmas, so as I get older I’m not so much eliminating activities as being more thoughtful about the particular things I choose to do. Sometimes that means doing more, such as baking several kinds of Christmas cookies last year, and sometimes it means doing less, such as eliminating Christmas lights last year and this. I try to choose based on what I think will bring the most blessings to me and those I care about.
I like Lynne’s description of how she now tries to approach to Christmas: “nurturing internal peace so I can be a peacemaker, living with a depth of joy that spills joy onto others, and experiencing the fullness of God’s love so I can love freely.” Valuing such internal qualities over external glitz seems to me a mark of maturity. My Christmas wish for the readers of this blog is that you may be able to identify what matters most about the season and let go of the rest.