What’s On Your Christmas List?

Susan Narjala   |   December 5, 2023 

Is your Christmas tree up yet?

In keeping with our yearly tradition, we invited our extended family over to decorate the tree and kick off the Christmas season. But, of course, the season doesn’t truly “kick-off” till there’s high-calorie food involved. So, yes, the evening included everything from brown-sugar-laced mulled apple cider and cumin-spiced roast lamb chops to rum-soaked Christmas cake served with creamy custard.

But as I think about my favourite holiday of the year, I realise what needs to come first is not the tree or the lights or good food or parties. Very simply, it’s not WHAT needs to come first, but WHO needs to come first. And His name is Jesus.

If you’re a Christian, you know that already. You sense that in your spirit. You long for your Christmas season to be more than just baking cookies, binging at parties, and barraging through malls.

You don’t want Christmas to go by in a blur. You want to slow down and savour it. You want to experience the true joy of the season.

I’ll be the first to share that first on my Christmas “wishlist” is joy. After a year of stress and sickness, I long for joy to infiltrate our home, to soak into every room and fill every crevice.

But, it turns out, joy is not sold on Amazon Prime. Nor is it available in any retail store. I can’t shop for joy at the mall or find it even if I pay full price.

You and I can find joy only in close communion with Jesus.

Will it cost us something? Not monetarily.

But it may cost us our time as we set aside moments to spend at the feet of the Lord.

It may cost us impressing guests as we prioritise full hearts and not just extravagantly laden tables.

It may cost us the latest fashion trends as we check in with Him instead of checking out the latest sale in town.

It may cost us likes and follows on social media as we stay in His presence instead of scrolling through posts.

But no matter how high the cost, the reward will be worth it as He floods our homes and our hearts with joy.

Friends, let’s not compromise and reduce it to just remembering the Reason for the season. That won’t do. Remembering is not enough. It’s about putting Him first

First in my day.

First in my priorities.

First in my thoughts.

It’s not about casually including him but about passionately pursuing Him this season.

As we begin the season of Advent, may our prayer be that we will experience the joy of Jesus as He takes His place at the centre of our lives.

As we "mull" on those truths, here’s a recipe that’s a seasonal favourite at our home: mulled apple cider.


Mulled Apple Cider

Serves 4-5 people


1 litre Apple Juice (Any brand)

250 ml orange juice (Any brand)

4 mandarin oranges

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3-4 small cinnamon sticks (about ½ inch in length)

10-12 cloves

5-6 pieces candied ginger (optional)


Pour the apple juice and orange juice into a big saucepan and set it on the stove on low flame. Stir in the brown sugar to it dissolves. (Pro tip: Find the brown sugar that clumps together like wet sand. I usually go with the Amrit Natural Brown Sugar from Parry's).

Peel the mandarins so they are still whole and poke the cloves into the fruit (This makes it easier to fish out the cloves later.)

Put the mandarins into the apple-orange juice. Add cinnamon sticks and ginger (if using).

Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and then simmer it on low for about 30 minutes or so.

Ladle out the juice (make sure to leave out the cinnamon stick and other floaties) into mugs. Wait for the drink to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Your house will smell Christmasy and you’ll want to bottle up the fragrance for the rest of the year.


Merry Christmas, friends!


Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash


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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog, www.susannarjala.com

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