Our daughters were in elementary school when we took a Christmas road trip to Arizona to visit my husband’s snowbird parents. We left evergreens and snow for cacti and desert temps. And instead of a traditional Minnesota celebration with extended family, we served dinner to the homeless on a vacant parking lot in Tucson.

Touched by the experience, our youngest daughter Melanie, who was ten at the time, wrote an email to her cousin and asked me to read it before she hit send. It read, “Christmas Day was great. We went to church and then served dinner to the homely people.”

While Melanie meant homeless, not homely, I have to confess I’ve had a homely Christmas or two. And the ugly moments always occur when I get tripped up in the stuff that doesn’t make an eternal difference.

I want a Merry Christmas. And if you’ve read this far, so do you. But how do we get there? How can the Merry Christmas wish we give to others become our own reality?

Here are five ways:

M:  Memorize Luke 2.

This may sound crazier than your December to-do list, especially if you’ve never memorized more than a verse or two. But if you’re serious about sticking to the true meaning of Christmas, stick the story in your heart.

E:  Extend grace to yourself and to others.

Release expectations and extend grace. Christmas is not about what we or others need to do. It’s about what he has done. May the Christmas grace he gives be the Christmas grace we gift.

R:  Remember your true identity.

Your true identity, acceptance, and worth are not measured by how well you hold everything together through the holidays. they are found in the one who holds you. Focus on who he is and who he declared you to be!

R:  Rest.

Jesus never meant for the celebration of his birth to be exhausting! He came to give life, hope, restoration, and, yes, rest. Breathe. Pause. Stop. Rest in the reality that he loves you, is for you, and is with you.  

Y:  Yield.

Give your best to loving your people and surrender the results to God. While we want everything to be perfect, his desire is for everything to show off his love, glory, and goodness.

But if the thought of a merry Christmas is too big to imagine, may you especially feel his presence. Because having a merry little Christmas does not mean “our troubles will be miles away,” but that he is near. He is here. Emmanuel, God with us, is with you.

And because that’s true, you can have yourself a merry little Christmas now.