8 ways to survive Christmas

1. Be grateful. Some of us are in incredibly difficult, life and death struggles. The rest of us aren’t. So sit for a moment. Write thank you notes. Even to God.

2. Lower your expectations. We want Christmas to match some ideal. It might be the ideal from a TV movie. It might be the ideal from our childhood. It might be the ideal that we never had. But Jesus was laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn. And he lived homeless, died shamefully.

3. Raise your expectations. But in that manger was Jesus. In that human body was, somehow, God. And then Jesus consistently talked to people no on else would. And they realized that this was someone different. And in that shameful death, even one of the guards realized this was God.

4. Stop trying so hard. I spend energy trying to make things perfect, trying to make me perfect. I forget that I can’t control everything. I can’t be everyone’s savior. I can’t even be my own. And the energy spent is energy wasted, attention diverted from reflecting on how there might already be a Savior.

5. Try harder. I could have better habits, not to save my life, but to live it better. One less self-medication, one more conversation with God.

6. Sing. We don’t sing enough. Singing helps physiologically. It slows our thinking to the speed of the notes. It takes us from prose into poetry.

7. Weep. People hurt. This is the first Christmas without someone for many people. This is the last Christmas with someone for others. Stopping to listen to hearts that are breaking and weeping with them is a gift.

8. Be expectant. Being grateful doesn’t mean we can’t expect more. To beg God to do something, and to be open to be part of it.


My new book for the Kindle is free on Christmas eve: Learning a new routine. Reading the sermon on the mount a little bit at a time.I’ll talk more about it after Christmas, but I wanted to let you know.

16 thoughts on “8 ways to survive Christmas

  1. Joanna Paterson

    Thank you. You capture so much of the different swirling emotions at this time of year, which make it so challenging, and so beautiful.

    I was reflecting this morning that much of my own resistance to Christmas is the huge cultural wish to recreate times past, to hold on to a way that things (probably never) were. And to spend a whole lot if money in so doing.

    But really the message of the quiet story at the heart of it all is that the world needs to change not stay the same, change through love, as it needs to and can, and always will.

    Am off to sing some carols in a hospital shortly. I will be thinking of you.

    Happy Christmas to you and Nancy x


  2. Matches Malone

    Jon, I like what you’ve said here, but maybe your title is off-putting. I don’t believe that Christmas is something that merely needs to be survived, but is to be celebrated every day. At the same time, I get where the sentiment comes from, as I had a talk with my daughter about this recently.

    Thank you for continuing to pray for me, my family, and my ministry. Merry Christmas to all!! 😉


    1. Jon Swanson

      Mike, what I’m pretty sure is that for those of us who need the title, we’re good. And for those who don’t, they can go enjoy their eggnog. 🙂

      Cheering for you.


    1. Jon Swanson

      I know. I need to figure that out.

      I chose the Kindle platform because I finally needed to hit publish. I’ve been trying to figure out publishing for a long time. And the particular program I’m using allows me to set a few free days, but limits me to the Kindle for 90 days.

      I will, however, keep working to figure this out. And I’ll get this and the other books I’m working on to other platforms as well (yes. There are more coming. I’m already working on a Lent book and there will be a Nehemiah book coming out later this year.)

      For now, the Kindle app will work on lots of platforms (smartphone, PC, tablet) but for some reason, not the Nook.

      Thank you for asking.


    2. godsbooklover

      I’d be interested in your experiences with publishing. I’ve been toying with assembling all my Biblical meditations and/or all my Advent readings into an e-book. I’ve thought about the self-publish sites like Lulu, also, but don’t really want to invest a bunch of money in the project right now. Maybe I could pick your brain sometime? And Merry Christmas to you and Nancy and family!


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