It is Christmas time, a time of joy and celebration. During this time, I want to put a smile on my loved one’s faces, and joy in their hearts by buying the perfect gift, creating the perfect ambiance, crafting the perfect decoration, and throwing the perfect party. But here’s my confession: It’s not enough for my loved ones to have joy—I want to be the one who put it there. Is it wrong to want to be the hero of Christmas?

There is nothing wrong with me wanting to show my love through acts of kindness, but my focus should not be on these things and how perfectly I can execute them. We are making memories, but more importantly, we are molding character and influencing hearts. My efforts should not be focused on my joy and acclaim, but rather, my actions should illuminate Christ and his unconditional love for all of us.

As believers, our main goal in life is to know God and make Him known. What better time to do this then Christmas? We can create opportunities to lead our children, our friends, and family members to worship, to communion, and most of all leading to spiritual epiphanies. I learned the error of my ways early on and these are the steps I took to get back to the basics; back to the real joy of Christmas.

Ask Tough Questions

We have to ask the tough questions. What is important to me; to us as a family? Why do we do these particular traditions, and are they taking up time that could be spent on something more spiritually impactful? What do we want our holiday to revolve around; me, my kids, parties, or God? What are our expectations for the holidays and what should they be? Are all these gifts we are giving meaningful? Are all these gifts for our kids counter-intuitive to what we are really trying to instill in their character?

Make Tough Changes

Sometimes even the “good” things are not the “best” things. Many of us accept material gift-giving as the “good” alternative to what Christmas is really about—the most important gift the world ever received. It’s exhilarating to give a gift your loved one the gift they have always wanted, but how might that distract them from the gift of Jesus? Make a conscious effort to keep Jesus as the center of all of your holiday activities. Don’t give in to peer pressure and say no to things that don’t fall in line with what you have decided for you and your family.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Once you’ve decide what is most important, put the time into the implementation. For example, buy all the supplies ahead of time for the Advent calendar. Start saving money for special donations. Practice manners with your kids, so they are prepared to be a blessing to others as opposed to seeking to receive. Planning ahead like this may feel awkward and contrived at first, but when the time comes, it will feel effortless.

Adapt and Let Things Go

Even with the best of intentions, we can lose focus and allow our own expectations to cloud our vision. Each year might look a little different with the changes of life phases. Be in constant prayer and allow God to lead in what is important. Make a list of priorities—what must happen all the way down to what I would like to happen. If it adds unnecessary stress, it comes off the list. This way you can be a part of facilitating God’s work without distraction or unnecessary stress.

The best gift we can give our loved ones is obviously not one we buy at the store or found on Pinterest. In letting go of being the holiday hero, we can true love by focusing on Christ’s love. Then we can receive lasting joy by being a part of their spiritual awakenings—the real joy of Christmas.