Week 1: A Four Week Plan for a Christmas Worth Savoring

It’s Dec 4th already friends! Can you believe it?

I don’t know about you, but I’m far from ready for the BIG DAY!

– So many things to do!

– So many place to go!

– So many gifts to buy!

It’s the common Christmas mantra for many. It’s the mantra of our culture. It’s the mantra that invites one and all into the Madison Avenue, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Give More/Get More mentality of Christmas seasons past, present and future. I’m guilty. How about you?

If so – I invite you to join me in creating a new Christmas mantra this year. A mantra that places Jesus front and center.  A mantra that prepares heart and home that  invites ourselves and others to experience more of the Christ child. A mantra that take on the spirit of the Innkeeper,  one who Prepares Him Room.

Learning to Simplify

As an empty nester with a large, growing family, I’m trying to find new ways to simplify Christmas. I’m going with a less-is more approach …with the exception of Christmas Trees. This year I bought three, yes 3,  live Christmas trees. I couldn’t help myself.

One for the front porch, one for the sitting room, and one for our main family room.  



And I’ll tell you why.

For the first time in a long time, all eight of our adult children and their families will be together to celebrate Christmas – here in Ohio – in the home where they grew up. And my husband and I can’t wait!

It’s going to be party-central here at the Stretar homestead!

Preparing for 15 adults and 15 grandchildren is no small matter and I know some would cringe at the thought of it. But the thought of having my entire family under one roof is something that I treasure more than anything.

So I’ve come up with a plan to manage the endless list of preparations by breaking things down into weekly chunks of time.

For this week and the next three weeks that follow, I thought I’d share my new approach with you in case you too, are still trying to find a way to manage the busy Christmas season.

This new approach to Christmas entails four words to guide me through the next four weeks leading up to the week of Christmas.

  • Week 1: Preparation
  • Week 2: Meditation
  • Week 3: Incarnation
  • Week 4: Celebration

I invite you to join me here at Above and Beyond Midlife for the next four weeks if you want a Christmas worth savoring. 

My prayer is that your adoration of Jesus doesn’t get lost in the middle of all your planning and preparation to celebrate Christmas with your loved ones.

And it all begins with preparation.

Prepare Him Room

This year, I am being more intentional about clearing away the clutter in my heart and in my home. I’m actually taking to heart the words from this famous Christmas carol, Joy to the World:

Joy to the World, the Lord is Come. Let earth receive her King! Let every heart, PREPARE HIM ROOM. And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and heaven and nature sing.

I’m two years in as a full-blown empty nester, and fair to say, Frank and I have grown accustomed to the peace and quiet of empty nest life.

We enjoy it immensely, in fact.

But knowing that all of our kids will be home for Christmas this year…well, plain and simple… it’s game on! And we can’t wait!

A return to the chaos is time we are greatly anticipating.

At the same time, when I think about my kids coming home and the four or five days we will have together, I can quickly let myself get overwhelmed thinking of all I have to do to prepare for our time together; the shopping, the food, the gifts, the bedrooms, (and the family fire-pit) are all in need of preparation.

They will be here soon enough, but if my heart is not ready to receive and welcome Jesus first, I will be counted among those who missed celebrating the true meaning of Christmas, altogether.

I need a plan.

I need focus.

I need a mindset.

Prepare Your Heart

To clear the clutter from my heart, I recognize my need to first prepare my heart and to make room for more of Jesus.

This year, my husband and I have chosen to use John Pipers’ Advent Devotional: Good News of Great Joy!  You can download a .pdf file or .pub file for ibooks. Click here to get your free copy now.

This daily guide helps us stay focused on the Who of Christmas and not the endless list of things we need to do or buy.

I love how this Advent devotion is laid out.

It begins with asking the question, What does Jesus want for Christmas?  

I don’t know about you, but my Christmas gift-list has a lot of names on it, but sadly, Jesus’ name is nowhere to be found. I never thought of asking Jesus what he wanted for Christmas.

The first few days of the devotion highlights the prayer of Jesus in John 17. Jesus is praying for us. He is pouring out his heart to His Father telling him what he wants. And what he wants is nothing short of astounding.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

“What Jesus wants for Christmas… is for us to experience what we were really made for – seeing and savoring his glory.”

How’s that for a non-materialistic Christmas wish?

Oh! that I would see more and savor more of God’s glory!

But what does that even mean? The answer is summed up in verse 26.

 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

I’m so grateful to God for his constant pursuit of my heart to know and love him more.

And this, friends, is my hope for myself, for my family, and for you this Christmas… that we will slow ourselves enough in all of our planning and preparations, to “see Christ, with the eyes of God, and savor Christ with the heart of God.”

I have this devotion download to my iphone for quick reference while I’m in the air flying this week or in line at the grocery store.

It will serve as a central point of conversation for Frank and me to connect with our faith and our family as we go about our busy work week and also on those mornings when we can sit and enjoy coffee together.

It’s a plan and a mindset that will help us focus on keeping Jesus front and center through all of plans and preparations.

Prepare Your Home

 This year, I’m rolling out the red carpet for my family!

But more in an intangible kind of way. I want to lavish them with God’s love and goodness, because that’s the kind of good God that he is.

I want our home to be welcoming.

I want our home to be comforting.

I want our home to be accommodating.

But most of all –

I want our adult kids to forget about the demands of their busy lives for a moment – and just be.

  • I want them to feel God’s peace.
  • I want them to know his love.
  • I want them to enjoy each other.
  • I want them to feel loved, and valued, and treasured for who they are…for the gift that they are.

These are the intangible gifts that I enjoy giving to my family. If this were all we were able to give, I like to think it would be enough.

The problem for me, is that I’m a gift-giver at the core. I love to lavish my people with goodness; with gifts chosen uniquely for them.

But there are so many of us now which is causing me to shift my gift-giving focus from things – to gifts of time. As a family scattered between Seattle, Dallas, St. Louis, Ohio, and Greenville, we have come to appreciate more than anything the gift of time.

So without giving away all my secrets, I’ve changed my giving habits to include more event tickets and things to do and places to go in place of toys and other things that don’t last and end up creating more clutter. I am hoping it will help them create lasting memories with their young growing families.

Gift opening will be simplified to allow more time for us to enjoy each other in the short time we have together.

The trees are decorated but that’s about it.

This week my husband and I will be cleaning and clearing space for 2 teenage grandsons, several pack-n-plays and high chairs, and a bazillion coats, shoes, and diaper bags. I’ll also use my time away (flying) to finish my online shopping and completing my mile-long grocery list.

And there in the middle, in between all the doing and preparing, I pray that you will find a way to slow yourself – to pace yourself – to join me in this 4 Week adventure of a Christmas Worth Savoring that we might “see Christ, with the eyes of God, and savor Christ with the heart of God.”

As always, please feel free to comment and let me know how you are savoring more of Jesus in the midst of all your preparations.

Until next week – May your week of preparation prove to be an above and beyond kind of experience in every way possible.


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