The holiday season is the destroyer of routine.
I am off work for the remainder of the term. My husband will be off next week. With vacation our bedtimes and rising times go out the window; we eat at random hours; we go out when we feel like it; we indulge our leisure hobbies. This means, among other things, that the tick-tock ritual of our daily life – which normally includes time spent with God – falls apart.
I suspect this happens to most people at this time of year. I also suspect that, for most of us, time with God is the first thing to go because hey, it’s Christmas! Everything‘s about God! That time spent at the cantata and the Christmas Eve service makes up for whatever else it is spiritually that we happen to not be doing. We don’t really feel bad for missing the regular stuff when we’re doing special stuff instead.
But if your spiritual life, your settled time with God, is falling apart now, then mark my words: you are going to be in for a spiritual hangover come January. Work is going to come back then, and so is the normal routine, and adding God back into the regular mix is going to turn what should be a life-giving practice into a chore that you fell off doing and need, now, to pick up again. You’re also more likely to fail in the doing of it, since you’ll be adding “recalibrate my spiritual life” to the list of other resolutions you promised yourself you’d implement. That’s a lot of pressure!
So before you completely go off the rails, let me offer a brief guide to reestablishing your intimacy with God during this most chaotic time of year:
– Don’t “special occasion” it. “Well,” you say, “normally I’d do my Bible study, but since this is a special occasion…” Friend, that is how every diet fails. It’s how a Bible study fails too. If you tell yourself that there days it’s permissible to not be around God, you are a) treating God not as a cherished companion but as part of a dull to-do list and b) exempting God from “special”-ness! Not good. Find the time. Even on special occasions.
– Do feel free to change the format. The kids are home. Or you’re on the road. Or you have too much to do. Or you’re trying to entertain guests. Or you have 385 church events to attend. Don’t stop your routine of spiritual intimacy, but do change it up. If you don’t have time to read, grab an audio book. If carrying the Bible is another thing to remember and you’re apt to forget, read it on your phone. If you can’t manage your usual half hour, try for fifteen minutes. Let the response to busy-ness not be “I have to abandon this” but “how do I change this so it will work?”
– Pair it with the thing you always do no matter what. Is it brushing your teeth? Is it washing your face? Making a cup of coffee? Pair your spiritual time with that if you can. That way you’re less likely to forget, even when your schedule’s gone haywire.
– Do not treat Christmas like a substitute. We all know very well that as enjoyable as a cantata or a candlelight service is, it is not the same as one-on-one time with God. Looking at a manger is not the same as reading a Bible. Seeing a lot of stuff about Jesus everywhere is not going to grow you and challenge you in the same way as digging in deep on an individual level. So pretending that they’re the same or will function in the same way can lead to struggle.
– Remember time with God is a pleasure. I get it. The holidays can be hectic. And having something else to accomplish before bed feels like drudgery. But if you change your attitude from “I have to talk to God” to “I get to talk to God,” it will make a world of difference. View your intimate time with God as a source of refreshment and joy that will get you through the everything-else of the year’s end, and you’ll be setting up a great pattern and an attitude that will be easy to keep up with in the New Year.
Now go and enjoy a special week!