I did all my Christmas shopping before the start of December this year – that’s a first. Then, much to the delight of our nine-year-old twins, we finally put our Christmas tree up the first weekend of December – they’d been asking since the start of November. We trawled through the store-room and found the tree, the lights, the tinsel and decorations and had Christmas carols playing in the background as we went to work. The result was breath-taking. In a few hours, the house was transformed into a brightly coloured wonderland. Our children were wide-eyed and beaming. Then, they convinced us to build the gingerbread house, fitted together with deliciously decadent icing dripping like snow from the roof. Wow! What a weekend. I was pooped, but relieved that it was done. Now, I could relax.

Well, not really and when Monday arrived, I started coming apart at the seams. I snapped at my husband, flew off the handle with my son and lost my cool with my daughter. I was seething on the inside and I didn’t know why. What on earth was going on?! Only a day before in church, the pastor had been speaking about what matters most in the run up to Christmas – people. And here I was getting cranky with the people I love most.

I thought I’d made these precious people my priority?! I’d worked hard to make sure I wouldn’t be distracted the whole weekend. I wanted to be fully present because I knew that our children had been looking forward to putting up the Christmas tree.

As I pondered my seemingly irrational feelings, I realised that although my family may have been my top priority over the weekend, they had slipped down my list by Monday. As I reflected, I recalled how I’d been thinking of all the things I still needed to do before Christmas, which meant I got out of bed in the wrong mind-set. I got up, ready to do battle. I didn’t mean to do battle with those I cherish most, but I did and it took me until Monday evening to finally realise what was happening and make amends.

How sad, that at one of the most wonderful times of the year, when the whole world is thinking of how we can give gifts to those we care about, we often get so caught up in the organisation of holidays and Christmas, that we lose sight of what really matters.

I was stressed and my family suffered because of it. I thank God for bringing clarity to a situation that could have spiraled out of control and continued for days and weeks. I made a decision right then to de-clutter Christmas. To simplify everything and to let go of anything that was making me feel stressed and anxious. Sure, some stuff still needed to be done but, I resolved to do what I could every day and leave the rest to the next day.

Here are a few things I started doing – it seems to have given me some head space:

  • I pray and ask God to help me. I tried on my own but only hurt myself and those I love most.
  • I made a list of everything that I wanted to get done before Christmas.
  • I made a list of everything I needed to do before Christmas.
  • Then, I resolved to start with the ‘need to do’ list first.
  • I got out of bed 45 minutes earlier.
  • I focused on doing one thing at a time, rather than being distracted by everything that I wanted to get done.
  • I let go of some stuff.
  • I let some stuff roll over to the next day.
  • I practiced saying ‘not right now’ to the voices of the urgent.
  • I practiced being present in the moment and allowed myself to enjoy it.

It struck me that we can sometimes be kinder to strangers than we are to those closest to us.

Every year, we are given an opportunity to remember just how important people are to God. He came to earth in human form and made a way for us to know Him – as Heavenly Father.

If people matter to God, then people should matter to us. Let us not be too busy with the preparation of Christmas and risk losing what matters most – the people of Christmas.