If Christmas season stressful, prayers and planning can chase away Grinch

If Christmas season stressful, prayers and planning can chase away Grinch

If Christmas season stressful, prayers and planning can chase away Grinch

Family, work, and church schedules are hectic for many people throughout the year but they become jam-packed and exhausting for many at Christmas.

A year ago, Lawana Perkins took matters into her own hands when she decorated her family’s Christmas tree alone.

“Some had been excited about decorating, and some years they just didn’t seem as excited,” explained Perkins, the wife of Family Research Council president Tony Perkins.

It’s not that the Christmas tree wasn’t important. It would continue to be the centerpiece of the home for the season, adorned with the ornaments of many years including a depression-era star at the top that dates back to Tony Perkins’ grandparents.

“Last year I just decorated it myself. I didn’t ask anyone,” Lawana Perkins, a guest of her husband, said on Washington Watch Friday. “This year one of my adult children said, ‘Mom, please don’t decorate until I get off of work.’ I didn’t realize how important that was but just doing that as a family was important.”

The family remains connected by prioritizing Christ during the season. It seems simple since His birth is the reason for the season but responsibilities of work and church, the uptick of the social calendar and shopping deadlines, can become distractions.

Celebrate a biblical Christmas

Chris Woodward (AFN)

Joseph Parker, director of outreach for American Family Association (AFA), recommends families read the Christmas narrative together.

"I think a lot of times it's helpful to kind of avoid the word 'story,' per se. Sometimes, people think of stories as not being true – but the Christmas narratives are very true and, of course, very historical."

Parker, Joseph Parker

The Christmas accounts are found in Matthew Chapters 1 and 2, and Luke Chapters 1 and 2.

"During the Christmas season, you have people thinking 'I want to get into the Christmas spirit' and they think of shopping and gifts and that sort of thing. But the reality is Christmas is about Christ. He is Jesus. He is what Christmas is all about. He is the center of Christmas."

It doesn't long to read the Christmas narrative. Parker suggests even spreading it out over time – and if children are present, he recommends they do most of the reading.

"The reason being is because typically it really engages them when they do the reading. And allow them to ask questions because children generally have wonderful questions and they are going to have questions about the powerful Christmas accounts. So, this is something that would be very productive to do … not just once or twice, but several times during the Christmas season."

In doing so, Parker says the Holy Spirit will reveal things about Christmas that are new to the readers. And he contends the fact that Christ is the center of Christmas comes out when one makes time to read the scriptures.

"So, I would encourage every family to make time to do it. It's more than worth it to take that time."

Parker is host of "The Hour of Intercession" on American Family Radio, a division of the American Family Association, the parent organization of the American Family News Network, which operates AFN.net.

The first line of defense, Lawana advises, is prayer.

“One thing that I do every Christmas season is just pray, ‘Lord. Help us to keep our focus on Jesus, not on the decorating, the gift-giving.' While all of those things can be fun we sometimes tend to lose our focus,” she said, adding that it’s important for parents to include children in focus-praying through the season.

Prayer can also ease tensions that could arise when family members who visit infrequently are in close proximity for large amounts of time. That’s not always the recipe for a Norman Rockwell portrait-type of experience around the kitchen table. 

More than 115 million Americans are expected to travel for the holidays, many of them bringing deeply-rooted political positions along with their presents.

“Pray before you go ... and just because someone has a different opinion than you do, on whatever, doesn't mean that you have to share your opinion on everything,” Lawana Perkins said. "Try to find something common that you can talk about and especially let them know that Jesus is the reason we’re celebrating.”

If you're feeling stressed during the Christmas season, you're not alone. There is a long stretch of busyness from the Thanksgiving turkey to New Year's Eve fireworks, which is why the public's stress levels have caught the attention of Harvard Medical School. Its researchers studied brain function, the prefrontal cortex to be exact, which is overworked with a longer to-do list during the holiday season. 

A little bit of planning can go a long way toward lowering the stress level, Lawana Perkins said.

“I would say pre-planning is great. So many times, I tend to be reactionary instead of planning and preparing," she admitted. "The more you can pre-plan activities or even gift-giving, if you can do that in advance, it just helps with the stress level.”

When it comes to family traditions, you don’t have to do them all every year.

“Just choose one thing and it doesn't have to be expensive or some grand thing," she advised. "It can be just a simple thing. Get a box of graham crackers and some icing, and maybe some little candies, and build a little gingerbread house. It’s those little things."