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‘Tis three weeks before Christmas, it’s time to check in: will Christmas this year be a fail or a win? + The presents are wrapped and the stockings are hung, not a single list item has been left undone. + The children are happily crafting and reading, with baking and countdowns all nicely proceeding. + But mom’s feeling frazzled: has it all been enough? As much as we’re doing—there’s ALWAYS more stuff . . . to do and to celebrate, buy, play, or see. I just can’t keep up! Is it all up to me?

Anyone else out there feeling me on this? Mom pressure is REAL, and nowhere do we feel it more than around Christmas. We want the season to be memorable, and with so many options available to elevate the Christmas experience, it’s hard not to reach for each and every one of them in our efforts to bring joy and wonder into our households in December.

That pressure is mostly just a perception, of course: despite endless lists of things we need (and want) to do around the holidays, very little of it must get done for the season to have been a “success.” (And that’s not even touching on the notion of whether or not Christmas success is itself a goal worthy of being pursued.)

I remind myself of this daily: I am doing enough. And even if I am NOT doing enough, that’s okay. . . because I probably never will. The perfect holiday season does not exist, and even if it did, it would not rest on my shoulders to usher it in.

Knowing that I will never get around to doing all the things at Christmas, I want to ensure that the things I do choose to do are the right things. What matters most to me in this season? When December comes to a close, what memories and lessons do I hope our family will be carrying with us into the new year? We’ll have acknowledged our traditions and engaged in all the festivities, and none of that is bad; but what will matter most? What does matter most?

It has become a cliché to talk about the Christ child being lost in the busyness of the Christmas season—but clichés become clichéd for a reason, and I think we can all agree that Jesus often gets pushed to the sidelines in our efforts to maximize the holidays. Even those of us who try to centralize Jesus in all our Christmas festivities can fail to acknowledge the fullness of His presence amidst this busy season.

The celebration of Advent has become a practice that draws our family back to the manger, to the feet of Jesus—the heart of Christmas, the reason for it all, the “what matters most about the season”—throughout December. Each week we welcome a gift of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. These gifts are so much bigger than the candle on a wreath, or a song sung around the table. They are bigger than the many (fun but not necessary) items on our December bucket list. They are even bigger than our family and our practices and our traditions and our memories. They are our connection to our Lord and Savior, whose arrival we will celebrate on December 25 and (hopefully) all year long.

On the first Sunday of Advent, our Advent guide asked which theme of Advent we felt we needed most in this season. I chose peace. Not that I don’t long for hope and love and joy as well, I do; but without a peaceful posturing, those other gifts will be lost to me. If my mind is frenzied and my heart is unsettled, my hands will be balled into fists, unavailable to receive Advent’s blessings. Peace paves the way for the other three Advent themes to nestle into my soul. And that peace can only be found in Jesus.

Despite songs about silent nights, and greeting cards wishing for peace on earth, this rarely feels like a peaceful season. It feels like the OPPOSITE of peace. Perhaps that is why I crave peace so deeply at Advent: my heart and body and mind and spirit yearn for a settledness, an un-hurriedness, a letting-go of the pressure and the chaos and the noise. I long to bow down at the foot of the manger, resting in the stillness and the enough-ness that can be found only in His presence.

Jesus, let there be PEACE in my home this season. And let it begin with me.

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