Priorities of Joy

By Alli Bauck

I shuffled down the dark hallway, letting out a sigh. It feels like I’ve been holding my breath; the half hour leading up to the boys’ bedtime is always a whirlwind! I ignore the crumbs on the floor as I collapse into a crusty kitchen chair. My neighbor’s Christmas lights wink at me between the blinds, twinkling through a soft curtain of steam that wafts from my mug of tea.

I am tired.

As a mom of a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby, these remaining minutes of the day are precious: they are (usually) peaceful and quiet—a chance to catch my breath and wind down.

But not tonight. Tonight is December 4th.  In the past 10 days I have celebrated Thanksgiving, a wedding anniversary, and my birthday. And now I am sitting and staring and struggling to prepare myself mentally for the weeks ahead.

Christmas is traditionally a time marked by joy and anticipation. There are Christmas cards to send and gifts to buy and cookies to bake and a Christmas tree to decorate and and etc. etc.

I need energy. I need a plan. I need to focus!

The painted eyes on my penguin mug seem to watch expectantly. I grab a pen and the blank back of a recycled grocery list. Pushing the fa-la-la-la-list of To Do’s from my mind, I write the numbers 1, 2, and 3.

I’m sure you, like me, can recall the disrupted December traditions of 2020. That was only the second time in my life that I missed celebrating Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house. Instead, my husband and I were tasked with creating our own Christmas experience(s).

So, I made a list of three things I wanted to have happen in lieu of our normal traditions. I asked my husband to come up with some things too, so we would both feel like our holiday wish list had been fulfilled. At the time, I was walking through the Advent hymn journal, Light in the Darkness, from Next Step Press. As a memento, I tucked my “2020 Christmas Wish List” inside my journal—with all the boxes checked off.

The next year I finished up the second half of my Advent/Christmas journaling and made another “Priorities of Joy” list for the holiday season of 2021.

Tonight, the three blank spaces are ready: three things to make time for in the remaining days of 2022; three ways to be present and purposeful as I try to unwrap all the joys and wrangle all my boys this Christmas season.

I know one of my “wishes” will be to spend Christmas Eve with my family on my grandparents’ farm. Perhaps another will be to savor a freshly baked cinnamon roll, paired with a cup of tea, on Christmas Day? Or maybe I will delegate the task of picture-taking to a family member so I can get a proof-of-mom photo to say, “Yes, I was there!”

The cold linoleum groans as I carry my empty mug to the kitchen sink. My mind wanders to Mary, the mother of Jesus. On that first Christmas, her body was recovering from being at its physical limits. She was undoubtedly tired and overwhelmed by emotions. Then, suddenly, a group of undesirable shepherds make an uninvited house call—wanting to see her newborn! Yet, in the celebrating and the settling, Mary “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Like Mary at the manger, I am eager to see how Jesus will abide with me in the simple moments of my story.

As you prepare your hearts for Christmas, I encourage you to prioritize some specific joys to treasure amidst the distractions of “all the things.”

What traditions/events/activities would you miss if you didn’t take part in them this holiday? Where do you want to be? Who do you want to be with? How do you want to be present?

Maybe you could even include your spouse or children in this exercise?

Even if nothing on your short list specifically involves Jesus (the Reason for the Season), remember that He is present with you in all those experiences. Jesus came for you, to meet you right where you live, in the blessings and the stressing, to enter into the moments of busyness as well as the moments of peaceful reflection.

Have you ever thought that you are the reason Jesus celebrates this season? You bring Jesus joy! Because of you, He made a list of priorities, beginning with Christmas:

  1. Be born for [your name]
  2. Suffer and die for [your name]
  3. Rise again for [your name]

If your celebrations are Hallmark-perfect: God still sent His Son to be born for YOU. If your holidays are Griswold family chaotic: Christ still came for YOU. So as you check joys off your “wish list,” remember that you mean the world to the Savior.

For [your name] is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

You are one of His top priorities

Leave a Reply