I’ve become a big fan of Christmas baking shows. As soon as November 1 hits, in fact, my family and I started our now-annual tradition of watching, “Holiday Baking Championship.” I wrote last year about how we discovered this gem of a show, and now we just can’t stop watching.
As we binged the first few episodes this year and watched the contestants cook their little hearts out, I started thinking about what makes a good dessert. Here’s what I realized: It comes down to the right ingredients.
A dash of this.
A pinch of that.
A whole lot of the other thing.
And then, maybe, a secret ingredient.
Recently, after the kids went to bed and my wife and I were sitting down together, I started wondering, “What are the key ingredients to making this Christmas season the best one yet?” I started formulating a list, and I thought I would share the top four that really stuck with me.
Ingredient #1: Being Present
This has been a hard one for me. My wife and I run multiple businesses, so “work hours” aren’t really a thing for us. Still, we try really hard to keep family time sacred. But sometimes we fail. Just last week my eight-year-old daughter told me that she recently shared with a friend that she’s been “bored” lately because “mommy and daddy have been working a lot.”
Talk about a reality check! And, while I don’t think we’ve completely failed at this, my daughter has this perception that we have work to do.
So, this Christmas season, we are committed to being more present. And honestly, I think we all could commit to that. Think about how much aimless scrolling we do on our phones. How much we just want to be “checked out” and get some “me time,” when those we love are starved for attention. I think it’s more than we realize. And honestly, I think being more present is one of those things that you can never have too much of. Think about it. Has any child or spouse ever said, “You know, you’re too ‘in the moment’ right now. I’d like you to be more aloof”?
No. Be more present.
Ingredient #2: Rest
Rest as the second ingredient may seem a little counter to what I just mentioned above, but it actually complements ingredient number one very nicely.
“But Jon, you just disparaged ‘me time!’” Well, kinda. I disparage “me time” when it’s used as an excuse. When it’s used selfishly. When it’s not wielded properly.
The truth is we need rest. Jesus talks about it in the Bible, as well as models it for us. We live in the hustle-culture era, where more is best, especially when “more” is related to securing what we want. But Jesus took time out of his busy life to rest. To rejuvenate. And maybe that’s a better term for it, “rejuvenate.”
We have built-in days this Christmas season where we can be fully present AND rejuvenate. Take advantage of them. Rest. Reflect. Gear up. Take a sabbath.
Ingredient #3: Gratitude
It’s not a shocker that I’m talking about gratitude, right? After all, Thanksgiving kind of kicks off the official Christmas season. But I think too many of us treat Thanksgiving like the end of the gratitude season, and really it should be just the beginning.
Christmas is generally seen as the “giving” holiday. But we can’t forget gratitude. In fact, when we start to focus too much on gifts – on what we can and do “get” – gratitude and thankfulness can take a back seat.
But if we’re using the first two ingredients, gratitude pairs nicely with being present and resting. When we’re resetting and being in the moment, it’s much easier to reflect and be thankful. And there’s something that happens within us when we are thankful. It transforms our thinking. It forces humility. We see ourselves as smaller in all the right ways, and we can’t help but lift our gaze upwards to the giver of all good things.
So I want you to consciously practice gratitude this Christmas season. Not just on Thanksgiving. Don’t relegate thankfulness to the Thanksgiving table. Use it as a jumping off point, and seriously think about what you can be thankful for. Not just all the “good” that’s happened, but even the bad, as I mentioned earlier this month. The things we deem bad can be just as beneficial.
Ingredient #4: Grace
This is a big one. And I don’t think you can ever have too much of this ingredient. You can dump a whole gallon of it in your Christmas season recipe and it won’t be overpowering.
A lot of families struggle during the holidays to find peace. There’s fighting, bickering and backstabbing. There are deep wounds and fresh scars. And while I’m not diminishing legitimate hurts, I do think that too many of us hold onto things that can be let go.
I talked about the gift of grace last year, but it's worth repeating here. Here's what wrote:
Friend, we are called to live in peace with each other. You’re actually called to give more to those difficult family members this year, especially when we feel justified in our anger. And I’m here to tell you that, while that’s hard, it’s necessary. Especially this holiday season. Why? For starters, the more you hold onto it, the more it starts rotting you from the inside out.
But here’s one of the best reasons to give more grace this Christmas: Because it’s what this season is all about. It’s what God did for us. In the end, God gave us a gift we didn’t deserve. He gave us a gift after we wronged Him. He gave us a gift that cost Him everything and us nothing. In His grace, He gave us Jesus, and that’s why we celebrate Christmas.
You’ve been given grace. Now give it in return.
OK, so you got all that. But you might be asking, “So what is the right amount or ratio of these ingredients?” My response is simple: You have to decide.
See, another thing I realized after watching a lot of these baking shows is that measuring is kinda optional. These bakers have honed their craft through trial and error. Through testing, through tasting and through messing it up and having to start over.
They don’t follow rigid instructions. They go with their gut. I think that’s the best advice I could give you. As you create this holiday’s masterpiece, go by feel. Do you need to practice being more present? Be more present. Do you need to pay special attention to giving grace because of what has happened this year? Give more grace.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t seek counsel from above. You should. But in some ways that goes without saying. (Even though I juas a st said it…)
Just try it. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And it might just be the best Christmas season that’s ever been baked up.