On this day, December 8, 2016, it is currently SEVENTEEN days until Christmas. I say this not to stress and freak out about gifts you still have to get, but I am bringing this to your attention so that you may make the best of your holiday season. For some, Christmas is a wonderful time with family and friends, while for others it can be a challenging time of missing loved ones and remembering previous hurts. If there is one thing that these two groups have in common though, it would be needing to up their holiday season GAME. It may be only seventeen days, but there’s still time to make your Christmas great. What I’m talking about, of course, is ten sure-fire ways to take your Christmas season to an eleven this year, giving one that extra push to take your Christmas to the next level.

Ringing Bells for the Salvation Army
This will clearly help take your Christmas to an eleven, since for one, the Salvation Army is a wonderful organization that helps millions of people each year, but two, ringing bells is fun. Why is it fun, you may ask? Well, a lot of people simply stand there, ringing a bell, and saying “thank you” unenthusiastically as people toss in a few dollars. The kind of bell ringing I’m talking about, is something far superior than that. The RIGHT way to ring a bell for the Salvation Army takes a little effort, some spunk, and a boombox with the best Christmas mix you can come up with. The reason? Everybody loves a Salvation Army bell-ringer that can get down to “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC while rapping all of the lyrics. (Heck, I’d empty my wallet in the bucket just to witness that.) If you do this, not only will you be the hottest new Christmas attraction in your town while spreading Christmas cheer, but you’ll feel good knowing that humiliating yourself / dancing / singing to some great tunes is making some person’s Christmas a whole lot better.

Have an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party
This should be obvious, but the best way to celebrate Christmas is to get a group of your friends and see who can acquire the ugliest Christmas sweater known to man. It’s not difficult either, because all you need to do is go to the nearest thrift store, or go through your mom’s closest to find one of those “trendy” Christmas vests she wears around Christmas time. (Sorry if you’re reading this Mom. You know I love you.)

Go Christmas Caroling
Some people hate caroling, but in the words of Taylor Swift, “the haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.” I for one, LOVE Christmas caroling. The best thing to do though is not choose to sing those LAME Christmas carols like “Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer” or “Christ is Born” — but chose some lesser known carols like “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” or “Joy Has Dawned”. Bonus points if you can acquire a guitar and a portable amp to accompany you (especially if you can crank the portable amp to eleven), or a marching snare drum.

Bake Christmas Cookies, Then Give Some to Your Neighbors
I haven’t met a single person in my 23 years on this planet that doesn’t love cookies, so why not make some for yourself and the people nearest you! Figure out the kinds of cookies your neighbors like, take a Saturday, bake some cookies, keep some for yourself, and then give the majority of them away (so you don’t gain that “Christmas 15” that people talk about).

Figure Out a Good Christmas Prank
For those of you who do not have a sense of humor, I’m sorry, but pranking is another great way to take Christmas to the next level. One of the best Christmas pranks you can do (in my opinion) is slowly shifting the nativity scene in a friends’ / your parents’ / or you and your spouse’s place, and see how long it takes them to notice. Normally people are so wrapped up in Christmas-time-busy-ness that they don’t notice these this until months later. (Bonus points if you can work in action figures without them noticing.) When finally found out, deny that you moved the wise men, but they did in fact move to the other side of the living room on their own, and that Spider-Man and Daffy Duck were TOTALLY present at the birth of Christ.

Read the Story of the Birth of Christ to Children
If you don’t believe in the narrative of the Bible as truth, you can scroll past this one, but reading the story of Jesus coming to earth to kids is one of the best things you can do this Christmas as a Christian. There is a sparkle in a child’s eye when you read them the story of Jesus (if you do it right. YOU have to be excited. The story is EXCITING! GOD came to EARTH!) that is something that cannot be topped. Children have a way of revealing the true excitement of Christmas that is hard to be found in adults around the holidays. They hold onto each word of the story, ask questions, and are full of energy about Christmas. It reminds us how we should be when thinking of this time of celebrating Christ coming to earth—joyful and excited.

Watch Your Favorite Christmas Movies
Sometimes with the stress of the season with family coming over, having to buy everyone gifts (although you don’t have to. More on that in a bit), or realizing that cousin Eddie is soon coming, it can be nice to just sit and be entertained by a quality movie. Some of my favorites would be It’s a Wonderful Life, Die Hard, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Elf. And if you don’t think that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, you’re wrong, and watch it again. Stuff goes DOWN when John McClane shows up at a Christmas party, y’all. Don’t feel guilty about watching a movie, either, because sometimes you just need to relax by watching a Christmas movie. Yippee-ki-yay……….

Take an Entire Day and Answer the Phone by Saying, “Buddy the Elf, What’s Your Favorite Color?”
This is a line stolen from the movie, Elf (which if you haven’t seen it now [WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE PAST 10 YEARS—UNDER A ROCK?] you should), but what’s more fun than confusing your family members and friends that are already stressed by making them think that they have the wrong number for an entire day?

Do a Family Gift Exchange
In my family, we’ve decided that Christmas really isn’t about getting gifts, but it’s about celebrating Jesus’ coming to earth, and just being with each other. So if you feel the pressure to get EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. in your family a gift, don’t! Decide on doing a family gift exchange instead! You buy ONE gift (a men’s gift if you’re a guy, and a woman’s gift if you’re a woman), and pick one from the pile! Watch out though—you’re gift may be stolen, or part of your gift may be a gag gift…and FUN AND HILARITY MIGHT ENSUE!

Take Some Time to Pray, Read Your Bible, and Celebrate Advent
Believe it or not, I was raised Catholic until 5th grade. Besides the traumatizing memory of sung the country hit single of the 90s at an all-school assembly “Don’t Laugh At Me” by Sister Mary Ann (an elderly nun that could not hold a tune to save her life, bless her heart) to help curb the terrible bullying problem at the school, one of the many GOOD memories that resonate with me still is the seriousness and reverence that is placed on advent.
Advent is the four proceeding Sundays leading up to Christmas. During this time, Christians are to direct their hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time, as well as remember Christ’s birth on Christmas. The final days of Advent, from December 17 to December 24, focus particularly on our preparation for the celebrations of the remembrance of Jesus’ humble beginnings on this earth. Advent beckons our hearts and minds to become more like Christ, think more often about God, as well as to dive into Scripture more often. So instead of worrying about making sure that Christmas with the family will be PERFECT (and let’s be honest, no Christmas ever is. Families are crazy), we should try to use this season as a reminder to focus in on our faith through prayer, repentance, and reading Scripture, and use it as a catalyst to continue to deepen our faith through the next year.

With these tips, I hope that you can find this Christmas season to be a refreshing and lovely time, filled with humor, love, and becoming more like The One who created you while you CRANK IT TO ELEVEN.

Thanks for reading! If you want to know more about what happened this year with me, feel free to sign up for my Christmas letter HERE.