The pumpkins are still on the porch, but the Christmas train is already picking up speed. If your family is anything like mine, plans are already being made for dinners and parties. If your grocery store or craft store is anything like mine, turkeys and candy canes showed up the minute they put away the unsold school supplies. If your DVR is anything like mine, it’s already set to record the new holiday movies that begin — no joke — tonight.
Like it or not, the holidays are here, and they’re settling in for the next two months.
Over the past few years, my friend Anna and I have made it our mission to watch as many holiday movies as we possibly can. That means we’ve seen some great movies full of holiday spirit and snappy dialogue (waves hello to our pal and Hallmark movie favorite, Candace Cameron Bure), and it means we’ve seen some awful movies full of cheese and so much awkward (sends side-eye to that one movie about a snowman that came to life because seriously). But the reason we keep devoting ourselves to these movies is because even the silliest, sappiest movie usually has something encouraging to tell us as we skip or stumble through the holiday season.
Case in point, a movie from two years ago featured a grumpy Grinch of a man and a perky Pollyanna of an angel. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you any more for you to assume (correctly) that hearts grew, holiday spirit was found, and the town was saved. All that is true, as is the fact that the movie itself was one of my favorite channel’s lesser offerings that year. Still, out of all the holiday movies I’ve watched, that one is where I heard a line that’s stuck with me over time.
One of the characters said to another character who was dealing with some sort of grief, “The holidays are like a magnifying glass. Everything feels bigger during this season.”
The moment I heard that, my head started nodding and — knowing me — my eyes probably filled with tears. Because, yes — that is so true! No matter what the rest of your year has looked like, no matter what you’re feeling or dealing with during the fall, everything intensifies the second the calendar flips over into The Holiday Season (which, as we discussed earlier, spans from October to December at the very least).
So the exciting and joyous seem even more so! And that’s fantastic (and likely the inspiration for the catchiest Christmas carols). But the heavy and hard, when put under the magnifying glass of the holidays, might feel overwhelmingly heavy and hard. The absence of or separation from loved ones will feel even more devastating. The tension of financial struggles or health challenges will be even more worrying and wearying. Our insecurities, our disappointments, our frustrations, and our pain will all be blown up to monstrous proportions at a time when we wish even more desperately than normal that they would go away for good.
Well, great, you might be thinking now. Bah humbug to you, too! Thanks for these tidings of comfort and joy! I know. It sounds like this can only be bad news, but it’s not. Not really. It’s reality, and it’s not fun. But it’s not the end of the world, especially if we know it’s going to happen.
See, that’s why I wanted to tell you about this lesson I learned by watching a silly, sappy Christmas movie — because I’m confident that knowing is half the battle, that wisdom is the key to living a life of joy.
Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.
Proverbs 3:13 (NLT)
If we know that the holidays are going to bring heightened emotions and experiences, then we can be prepared. Just like we might try to save money for the extra expenditures that come with the holidays and we try to boost our physical immunity with flu shots and hand sanitizer before winter arrives, we also can fill up our spiritual and emotional tanks. Get in the Word. Spend time with a trustworthy friend. Build in pockets of rest and even moments of fun. Go to bed on time. Make a game plan to avoid becoming overly busy. And then, as things come up, we can be ready to evaluate our responses and determine whether any given situation is as earth-shattering or life-altering as it first appears. And, more importantly, we can be proactive in asking for God’s peace and strength to handle whatever comes our way in the last few months of the year.
Realizing that the holidays magnify our every emotion is a gift and can help us prepare to step into the holiday season with confidence this year. And if we needed one, it gives us the reason to be extra kind to ourselves and to others as we all do our best to enjoy this magical (and magnified) time of year. Perhaps then we can sing along with Mary, who saw some of the highest highs and lowest lows of all time:
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.”
Luke 1:46-49 (NLT)
How will you prepare for the magnifying glass of the holidays?
This year Anna and I are once again excited to watch and discuss the new holiday TV movies. We call it “Hooked on Holiday Movies,” and we’ll be bringing you Facebook Live videos, bonus podcast episodes, giveaways, a free devotional, and more! Click here for more details and to join us.
Be extra kind to yourself and to others as we all do our best to enjoy this magical (and magnified) time of year. -@marycarver: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
I’ve been bracing myself for this coming season–the first in our family with a grown up child living far away from us–knowing that it’s going to be hard, but trusting that we will all grow in our dependence upon God and in our understanding of the heart celebration that is vertical as well as horizontal.
I love how movies make your heart sing!
Mary Carver says
That is understandably hard, Michele. Praying God blesses your holiday season with joy, despite the changes!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
We in our Ladies TLC group in our Church the Enniskillen Salvation Army. One Wednesday night talked about Pumpkins. People of the world see them with Halloween only. Christian see Halloween as evil. Before I share about the Pumpkins. UCB is a Christian Radio Station and it comes from Stoke on trent. It is a place in England. They have great idea to get the Gospel into kids who come round the doors on Halloween night. Ticker treating. Get we bags of sweets or loose sweets make up we bags put a few sweets in each bag. On the front of the bag put a lovely Scripture verse on it. Like or saying Jesus loves you. Plus inside put a Bible colouring book in it colouring pens. A few Jesus kids sickers. Says God Love you. Jesus Love you this I know. That way they will hear the Gospel. As most kids coming to your doors probably will not have heard the Gospel or been to Church. They could have come from a trouble back round. Never heard about Jesus. If went to Church it could be the most boaring place to them. You can pick things up like this very cheap on line or in a Bible shop. To get the Gospel to that kid. You never know it could speak to their parents as well if not saved. We at are TLC group learnt a different thing about the pumpkins as a Christian at our Wednesday TLC Group for women. It is this as we usually just think of them with Halloween. Being a Christian is like being a Pumpkin. We had to scope one out that night. God Picks You from the patch, that is where you are brings you in and Washes off all the the dirt (Sin). Then he cut the top and Scoops Out all the yucky stuffy. (All the wrong you have done) Helps you be the person he wants you to be. So as you can lead others to coming to know him. He removes the seeds of doubt hate and greed from your life plus help you to be able to forgive and love all people. God then Carves You into a new smiling face that has his light shinning inside of you. For all the world to see. Yes it will take time. But like the Pumpkin it takes time to clean it out and make it into the design. You want it to be. It takes time with God to do the same with you. Through his word the Bible and Prayer. But with Gods help you get there. So Christian remember this about the pumpkins. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little
Thank you for a great and timely post! I remember a colleague saying that her disappointments as a child of an alcoholic were the worst at the holidays.
Mary Carver says
Oh yes, I’m sure that would be a hard way to grow up. I know alcoholism has affected some of my own family holidays, and it’s not easy. Thank you for reading, Jan!
Well, I could say, “Bah humbug”; however, I am trying very hard to stay positive because I am usually a positive person; but my oldest grandson, age 21, is in the US Army in Afghanistan; but my hubby of 55 years has become “brain dead” because 3 1/2 years ago, he accepted the teachings of a false cult, which he believes are the only one with the truth and they teach several things that are totally wrong..For ex:. They teach it is a sin to celebrate Christmas & Easter. Once upon a time we thoroughly enjoyed everything about the Christmas season; but he says that was all lies & he got baptized all over again by one of their “teachers”. This is very difficult to deal with. Our three “kids” cannot understand what has happened to their dad & we can no longer fellowship because he is so offensive in his beliefs. I praise God for giving me strength I would not have otherwise. Please pray for Ray.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
I will pray for your Husband Ray That he see the truth. That Jesus was born that baby in Manger that went on to Die for on the cross for him. Be the Father you and your kids want him to be. Plus see thoes two truths. That Jesus is the best present he could ever have. That is why we give present to people to tell them especially if not saved that Jesus gave us the best present of all himself. I pray your Husband the kids Dads will see that. Why Jesus went to cross to show he love us all so much even your Husband. So I pray God will open his eyes he will see this your Husband. You and your kids will get the lovely Husband and Dad back that once believed all this. As it says this in Gods words the Bible. Then you guys can celebrate this together as a family together. Plus th kids and You have the Husband – Dad back that you all want. Xxx
Dawn, You are special to take the time to write me a note to let me know you care..That means so much. Ray & I have been married 55 years & most of those years we were very active in the Baptist Church. Actually, he taught Sunday School, sang in the choir & was an ordained deacon. It is very difficult to believe he now says that was all lies based on lies..that his new church is the only one with the truth & their members will be the only people in Heaven. He even got baptized by one of their preachers. Our kids are now 45, 48 & 52 & still very active in the Baptist church & we have five grands who love the Lord. I have asked several people to pray for God to heal Ray’s mind. Thank you. God bless!
May the Creator & God of the universe.. MAGNIFY His Spirit in your husbands life again and save him from the evil he’s encountered.. blessings , mercy, grace and strength are prayed for y’all!
Sadie, Thank you so much for your sweet prayer for my family. It has been very difficult to deal with because Ray has become so weird in his thinking. We used to have Christian friends over for fellowship; but have not been able to do that since he got so involved in that cult as they have lots of “holy & Sabbath” days when nothing can be done except listen to his teachers on the internet. You bet we have our separate computers. He got involved by hearing their teachers on the internet. He tells me I am sinning because I refuse to obey him because “he is the head of the household”..He never used to talk to me like that. I am accountable only to Almighty God. I went through a cancer nightmare journey; but think this is more difficult; but God gives me strength. Again, thanks!
Mary Carver says
Oh, Frances, that must be so difficult! Praying peace for you and a heart that receives truth for your husband.
Mary, It is interesting that you use the word, “Truth”. This cult teaches that anybody preaching on Sunday is only telling lies & all seminaries teach lies. Our oldest son is an ordained minister & youth pastor at his church; yet Ray says that is all lies.. I have heard about people who are brainwashed; but never really knew what that meant until he got involved in this cult.. They have many rules that are to be followed or they won’t go to Heaven. I told Ray the only way to Heaven is through Jesus..nothing we do. It is so sad his mind is so messed up & our life seems topsy turvey; I believe satan knows his days are numbered so trying to cause many problems around the world; but WE KNOW THE END OF THE STORY–GLORY!! Thank you for everything you & the other Incourage sisters share. Blessings!
Such a good word! I’m going to hang on to this post and read it throughout the holidays. Thank you!
Me too! The holidays are tough, my grown kids, don’t speak to me or each other i remember times as they were kids waiting for the J.C. Penney catalogue to be delivered, writing out Christmas cards, getting Christmas cards, going to midnight mass, spending time with my parents(they have passed ) so these thoughts are more intense during the holidays. But god sees a purpose,to all this pain. So I’ll prayer this holiday season for a miracle.
Mary Carver says
Maria, I’m so sorry your family is experiencing such brokenness. I’m sure it’s incredibly painful during the holidays. Praying for healing and redemption for your whole family.
Mary Carver says
I’m so grateful this was an encouragement to you, Michelle!
Okay, Mary! You’ve laid down the gauntlet! Let’s mindfully approach this holiday season and make it the best ever! We can do this (with God’s help). And do it well.
Mary Carver says
That’s right! We CAN do this! With God, of course. 🙂
Nancy Ruegg says
I wish time magnified during the holiday season, to accommodate all the activities and preparations we’d like to include. I’d like to say that this year I’ll start prep earlier and prioritize better, to magnify the holidays in proper fashion. But I’ve never succeeded in making that happen in previous years! Perhaps one simple strategy will make the difference: prayer. Just as you suggest, Mary, “we can be proactive in asking for God’s peace and strength to handle whatever comes our way in the last few months of the year.” And each morning I can ask him to show me what needs to done that day and then do it. I am confident he will delight in answering such a prayer.
Mary Carver says
Me, too, Nancy! When things are good and busy, I definitely want more time! Sometimes I ask Him to multiply my hours like He did the fish and loaves. Perhaps that can be our prayer during the holidays as well.
Maggie Janaye says
Looking back on my last two holiday seasons I can see how they were both some of the weakest points in my year. I struggled to keep my spirits up and to stay my mind on Jesus. Such a good reminder to be ready in prayer and armed with His Word.
Mary Carver says
Praying your holidays are more joyful this year, Maggie!
Beth Williams says
I’m not a fan of rushing time. Let the holidays come as they will. Let Halloween, then Thanksgiving have its day. Stores are pushing from summer to Halloween to Christmas. All you hear is buy buy buy who will get what this year. Frankly Christmas is more than gift giving. It is celebrating the birth of Jesus. Thanksgiving is about family & meals. Being together with friends & loved ones. I prepare by not preparing. I don’t do a lot of parties. Our problem is that my hubby works some holidays (hospitals never close). So we can’t really prepare. This year the holidays have taken a bit of a turn for the worse for us. My FIL had a stroke early Tuesday morning (22nd). He is in hospital &will hopefully come home today (26th). He has stage III bladder cancer, along with other health issues. MIL fell a few weeks ago & broke her left hand. It is not healing. We are trying to figure out what to do next when they come home. It is one day at a time here at our house. I can prepare myself for the holidays by reading the Bible & doing devotions about the birth of Jesus. Understanding the culture at the time & what exactly happened. Trying our best to be joyful & thankful for what we have.
Mary Carver says
Hi, Beth. I’m so sorry to hear about your in-laws’ health challenges. I can see how that, along with your husband’s work schedule, make your holidays hard to plan or prepare for. Your strategy of staying in the Word sounds wise! xoxo
Becky Keife says
Mary, I’ve neven seen a Hallmark Christmas movie (please still be my friend!) but I can totally relate to that one memorable line: “The holidays are like a magnifying glass. Everything feels bigger during this season.” Yes. The good and the hard as you’ve so beautifully explored here all feel bigger. For me, it helps to intentionally build in more margin so the “bigger” has a place to land. Margin like slow quiet mornings to just be home for all the big of fun family gatherings. And margin like long showers and sitting by the fire when the big feelings hit of missing my dad, who I saw for the last time when we celebrated Christmas nine years ago. And margin to remember that God is with us in it all.
Elizabeth Herbert Cottrell says
Wonderful and wise, Mary. Forewarned is forearmed, and this is a great reminder. Thank you.