We have a family rule: No Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving. So, after we finished our Thanksgiving dinner, Sara and Sean threatened to stay up until midnight so they could begin cranking the carols at 12:01. (They fell asleep at 11:30.) As much as I love Christmas songs, as they planned a playlist, I felt a little knot of tension forming as I contemplated all that needs to be done in the three weeks we have before we head east for the holidays.

But then I realized I was standing in the kitchen, still surrounded by the remains of our Thanksgiving feast, a meal designed to encourage a feeling of gratitude. We had given thanks to God and toasted each other in recognition of a year of exceptional blessings. How could I be losing sight of the joy of that celebration before the dishes were even done?

Yes, plenty of tasks and obligations lay before me. But then I considered what truly lay before me – the season of Advent. A season of preparation for the coming of the Light. Was I going to spend that season battling anxiety and a too-long to-do list? Or was I going to embrace the beauty of the next weeks, and rejoice in the approach of Christmas and its miracles?

I decided in that moment to adjust my outlook and make it right for Advent. In the next four weeks, every time I have a stressed thought, I will stop and counter it with a blessed thought. When I catch myself rushing, I will slow down to savor the approach of the Savior. Whenever the mechanics of the season threaten to overshadow the meaning of the season, I will re-focus and lift my eyes from my holiday tasks to the holy truth of Bethlehem.

I invite you to join me on a walk to the manger that is blessed, not stressed. There’s certainly much to do before our Christmas King comes, but if we prepare together, our burdens will be minimized and our joys will be magnified. Let us walk together in peace and gladness.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10