A few years ago, shortly after drying the  Thanksgiving dishes, I started to panic.  How would I get Christmas together?  My heart raced and my palms felt sweaty as I thought of everything I had to do before the big day – shop, decorate, bake, wrap gifts, clean, cook, and attend celebrations.  Wait a minute.  Isn’t this supposed to be fun?

Although I felt busier than Superwoman on a triple vente latte, at the last minute I attended Bible study.  Deep in my heart, I knew I couldn’t let that go.  I’m so glad I did, because the speaker performed a demonstration that helped me prioritize my Santa sack sized to-do list.  She placed a bowl of sand into a two liter jar. Next, she added a bowl of small rocks. Finally she tried to add a bowl of golf-ball sized rocks in the jar, but they wouldn’t fit.

“The sand and pebbles represent the busy things that eat up your time but don’t have eternal value,” she said.  “Think about activities and errands that take time but aren’t essential.  You’ll notice that all these rocks won’t fit into the jar.  That’s because I have chosen to make the non-essential, trivial things in my life the foundation.  Now I have little room for Jesus, the Rock.”

Then she dumped the contents of the jar onto a pan and separated the sand, pebbles, and rocks.  “Let’s see what happens when we fix our eyes on Jesus, our Rock and Savior, and make him the foundation of our lives. “  This time, she placed the large rocks on the bottom of the jar. “Now let’s see if I can add some of the lesser important activities.”  Next she added the pebbles, and later the sand.  “Now I have room to fit in other activities because I have made Jesus the foundation.”  All the rocks, pebbles, and sand fit into the jar.  “This is your life, and you have choices on how you spend your time.  Let’s ask God to help us prioritize so we give our time to what’s really important – especially during the Christmas season.”

Driving home, I decided not to give in to the hustle-bustle of Christmas.   I know many people who like to shop, bake, decorate, and prepare for Christmas.  But to me it began to feel like a Martha Stewart Christmas Comparison Contest.   Agony and stress pumped through my blood, and I felt overwhelmed.

Reindeer Cookies

That‘s when I decided to peel back the layers of Christmas.  I would do only what felt most important and that I enjoyed.  I cut down on shopping, decorating, baking, and celebrating.  I unwrapped Christmas down to the heart.  That year, we had a small tree and displayed our beautiful nativity to remind us daily of the heart of Christmas.  Since I love to write, and our friends and family expect to receive a Christmas story in the mail the first week of December, I made the story a priority. We enjoyed a beautiful, stripped-down Christmas.  Instead of worn out and waiting for the holidays to end, I felt energized, grateful, and focused on the Christ child and the gift of the cross – the true heart of Christmas.

I’m grateful I attended Bible study that hectic day in December because I gained the gift of prioritizing during the holidays.  Now I recall the jar demonstration every year, and focus on the beauty and glory of the season.  I’m much better at avoiding getting swept up into the insanity of trying to create the most spectacular Christmas ever.  I don’t have to worry about that because it was done on the very first Christmas when God came to earth as a baby.  That, I remind myself, is the heart of Christmas.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree