The Christmas holidays are probably my favorite time of the year. The good long break allows me to do a lot of different things. Of course, Christmas, along with Easter, represents a high and sacred point of the Christian calendar, so the celebration of our Lord‘s birth is at the center of what makes it such a great holiday.

But, I’m also referring to all of the auxiliary events and opportunities the lengthy Christmas holidays give us. College students face many temptations when they go home for the Christmas holidays: the temptation to revert to their high school selves, the temptation to waste away in their rooms playing video games, the temptation to dedicate their entire Christmas break to finishing a Netflix show. While rest and relaxation are necessary, I have 7 suggestions to help you truly get the most out of your break from school.

 1. Invest in quality time with people.

Spend some time with the people and loved ones where you’re going. For many college students, that will probably be parents, but it could be grandparents or brothers and sisters. For Sue and me, since our parents all died a number of years ago, we usually spend the holidays seeing other family members. It’s a great time to see them, to slow down, to visit, and just spent some time talking.

To put it negatively – one of the worst things you can do is mindlessly vegetate in front of a television screen or some other kind of monitor. Work hard at being present with other people wherever you are. Sit down, smile, look people in the eye, and actually listen – meal times are great for this. You’ll be surprised what good things can come from investing in those relationships.

 2. Set aside some quiet time.

Make an effort to renew yourself with some quiet time by yourself. Having a regular time and place for these kind of spiritual disciplines is one way to reinforce them. I usually spend every morning with a time of Scripture reading, plus reading at least one other book – sometimes theology, sometimes history, or sometimes another biblical resource. It’s a habit I’ve developed over the years, and I’m able to keep it almost every day. If you don’t have this kind of habit, I really encourage it.

And – here’s where I could do a better job – also spend some quiet time just listening. After reading Scripture, listen for the Lord’s mind in your mind. Be quiet. Pray for other people as they come to your mind, and be still.

 3. Exercise.

Devote a little bit of time to some exercise. Of course, if you’re a student-athlete, or someone else who regularly exercises, keep up whatever your own set regimens are. For the rest of us, it’s still important to have some regular physical activity, whether it’s walking, stretching, or some form of mild resistance activity.

Are you starting to get the idea? All of these things relate to the ways we can “reset the clock” and develop some habits we can bring back with us, habits that renew us.

 4. Read for fun!

Pick out a book or two that you’ve been wanting to read, something that comes highly recommended. Maybe it’s something you wanted to read while you were too busy reading textbooks or other university assignments. Now that you don’t have to write papers and study for tests, pick out something that will be great to read just for the fun of it.

A note to language students –

I do have to make one slight adjustment to #4 – if you were studying a new language, whether Spanish, Latin, Greek, whatever – don’t let it sit idle. The worst thing that can happen to new language students is to drop your language study just when it’s starting to take hold. I still remember taking New Testament Greek as a college student. When the class got back for the second semester, it seemed like all of us, from the best students to the most challenged, had simply forgotten everything. A little bit of review for technical subjects over the holidays might help you a lot when you get back, especially for courses where the second semester is a close continuation of, and builds upon the first.

 5. Detox from the digital.

Perhaps I should’ve said this to start with because it relates to everything above — make a special effort to detox a little bit from the digital world. I mentioned television and similar monitors, but that seems to be the least of our electronic problems. Try to develop new habits built around the responsible use of technology. You’ll know what that means. Give yourself a chance to unplug things to plug-in to the Lord, your own growth, and personal relationships.

 6. Participate in corporate worship.

If your habits of worship have gotten a little shaky during the semester, make sure you schedule worship services. The Christmas season is one of the best times ever to get plugged back in to corporate worship and community relationships in service to Christ. This time of year has great worship opportunities that involve music, Scripture reading, and of course the opportunity to hear sermons and Bible studies that relate to the heart of the Christian faith. Don’t let your habits of worship grow stale.

 7. Reflect on the last few months.

Think back over your past semester, the life lessons you learned and the mistakes you made, and reflect upon how you can do better. Take some time to drop a quick email or text message to someone who helped you and say thanks.

So, all in all, college students, give yourself plenty of opportunity for renewal, recharging, resting, and preparing to come back to HBU, or your university, for a great spring semester.

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Dr. Robert B. Sloan is president of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas. Dr. Sloan and his wife, Sue, have 7 married children and more than 20 young grandchildren. He has recently published the first two books in a young adult fantasy series about an orphan named Hamelin Stoop.

Edited by Joannah Buffington

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