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Day 20 of 26 :: Take it back to the cradle.



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This was the purpose of the baby in the manger.

Freedom. He came to set us free.

There’s this hymn we sing this time of year that I absolutely love. It rolls off the tongue as you sing it but if you step back to examine the words, you start to see the bigger story unfolding:

O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

This hymn lays down the context of what was happening when news of the Messiah first broke out into the world. The hymn says, in plain terms, “Come be with us, God. Pay the ransom for Israel who is stuck in exile. We need you. We need your freedom.”

I wish we had several weeks to dig into these exact words but here’s what you need to know: these words are inspired by the events of the Old Testament. God sends Israel into exile as a punishment because, plain and simple, they just can’t stop picking other gods over the one true God. They stay in that exile for 70 years. And so the hope of one who could come and clear the slate? That was a big, beautiful deal.

Jesus is the representation of true freedom.

I was at a holiday event last year in Indianapolis and I had the joy of speaking alongside author Shannan Martin. We each had 15 minutes to talk about what we, as women, can offer to our people during the holiday season.

Shannon spoke so poignantly about this idea of freedom. She talked about how several years ago she and her family did a deep dive into examining the holiday season and why they do what they do around this time of year. She came up empty on a lot of things that turned out to just be obligations they did for other people. She realized so much of the season culminated and climaxed on Christmas morning where the presents would be opened.

She wanted to change things.

So she sat down with her family and she asked them their favorite parts of the holiday season. The common thread coming out of her kids’ mouths were feelings: I feel cozy. I feel loved. I feel surrounded. They associated their favorite things with feelings.

They decided, as a family, to cultivate those feelings and chase after those alone. They decided to inject more of those feelings into the season in order to enjoy it more.

Less chaos. More nights at home.

Less hubbub. More coziness.

Fewer events. More gatherings of people they love.

Less materialism. More quality time.

She said that was part of the freedom of Jesus– of God with us– that we would be free to restructure the holiday season and focus in on the stuff that truly matters. To eliminate the excess to get back to the baby in the manger.

Her message is so liberating to me. It has made me realize I am not a captive to traditions or “how we’ve always done it.” I have the power and freedom to set up the holiday season how I want it to be, to focus the energies of my family around the things that matter most.

Gosh, this is so liberating.

As for us– Lane, Novi, and me– we make more room for nights spent by the tree watching cheesy Hallmark movies. We make more times for game nights with friends, sipping eggnog and ciders. We clear space for evenings at the dining room table doing a 500-piece puzzle while Christmas vinyls crackle in the background. We use calendar space to serve our community by delivering meals to those in need. We intentionally place things on the calendar that matter to us, that aren’t an obligation but a chance to love our people well.

And if it isn’t working? If we feel no peace or freedom in the midst of our holiday season then we have permission to pivot and change things to make room for more abundance. More joy. More peace.

This is the heart of Jesus– that we would not live lives fraught with anxiety but that we would chase the freedom set before us.

This season, I am stepping into the freedom of not being governed by a long and winding to-do list.

I am choosing to chase the feelings of Christmas and find my freedom in saying “no” to the things that don’t add joy and peace this season.


At any moment, you are free to take this holiday back to the bones of what matters– back to the cradle in Bethlehem.


Galatians 5:1


Dear God, you orchestrated the bones of this story. But you are not a God who orchestrates chaos or busy-ness. Empower me to take back this holiday and ground it in you. Thank you for this freedom to rewrite the story for me and my family.




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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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