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Do Christmas Differently

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by Jamie Roach

Shopping, baking, decorating, gift-wrapping… and the list goes on. For most families, this time of year is packed full of activities and to-dos. As you enter into the time of Advent this year, I don’t want to add another task to your list. Instead, I want to encourage you to approach your usual holiday activities with fresh eyes. I want to encourage you to do Christmas differently.

What exactly do I want you to do differently? I’m glad you asked.

I want you to see others with the eyes of your heart and not just your mind. When you look at your kids, really seek to see them. I call this “seeing with the eyes of your heart” and it leads to deeper understanding, knowing and connection. Oftentimes when we are busy, distracted, or otherwise stressed out, we look at our kids without really seeing them. Looking at our children without really seeing them leaves them feeling missed, objectified and isolated.

Let me see if I can illustrate the difference by sharing a typical story from the life of Jesus from Matthew 20. Jesus is going about business as usual when a couple of blind people begin to call out, asking Jesus to show them kindness. The crowd, because they are seeing only with the eyes of the mind, see a couple of men who are blind, a drain on resources and dirty. Jesus, on the other hand, sees them with his heart. He understands what the men are experiencing and he feels their pain in his own heart. He is moved with compassion and he “touches” them and they are healed. The crowd observed and objectified the men. Jesus saw and loved them.

Imagine for a moment that you are the one who is blind, sitting by the side of the road, crying out for help. How does being observed (and judged) by the crowd make you feel? Does it make you want to get closer to them or further away? Now consider what it is like to be seen by Jesus, to hear the compassion in his voice to feel the gentleness of his touch? Are you drawn toward or pushed away from him? Do you look at your kids in a way that draws them closer to you or tends to push them away?

In her book, Understanding and Treating Chronic Shame: A Relational/Neurobiological Approach, Patricia A. DeYoung writes, “A pattern of noticing things about the child instead of paying attention to what the child feels is a pattern of shame-inducing objectification.” In other words, when we share the same space with our children but are not fully present to their needs and feelings, we leave them feeling less than human. Rather than feeling alive and connected, they feel isolated and alone. For a great example of the difference between “observing” and “seeing with the heart” check out the iconic video, The Still Face Experiment with Dr. Edward Tronick. Notice the reaction of the infant when they feel seen compared to just being observed.

Allow me to offer a couple of suggestions of how to move from observing to seeing.

First, do less. Run everything on your holiday “to do” list through the question, “How can we engage in this activity in such a way that it brings us closer together?” If the activity isn’t going to enhance connection, consider scratching it off the list. Sometimes doing less is more. Oftentimes, busy schedules keep us skimming quickly across the surface of our lives rather than plunging the depths where love and meaning reside.

Second, when engaged in the activities which made the list, see them as an invitation to better understand and connect with your kids and not just as one more thing to do. That way, running errands turns into a great conversation with your youngest about how sad she is about a recent fight with a friend. Meal prep becomes an opportunity to better understand why your oldest is really hating school at the moment. Picking out a tree turns into an evening of laughs and bonding over countless mishaps and miscues rather than being filled with frustration and tension because things didn’t go according to plan.

Third, take time to check with your own heart. Love overflows. When you are experiencing hope, peace and joy, so will your kids.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
–Mother Teresa


If you are looking for a way to slow down and connect with your family this season, we invite you to join us for Christmas at Camp December 2-4. The illuminated nativity walk, game stations, bonfires, crafts and other activities are all designed to provide families an opportunity to have fun and share a meaningful Christmas experience.


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