The glitz and glamour of the Christmas season are here, but you and I both know there’s a ball waiting to drop at midnight on December 31 that has us more uncomfortable than we care to admit. And that discomfort is the very thing I want to ask you to face: the impending fear of the new year.

If only we could be sure that the new year contained, well, new things for us. New as in good, of course. New as in hopeful, optimistic, exciting. If that were how new years worked, we wouldn’t be feeling so uptight. But lurking behind the new of the new year are all its unknowns and the fears they foster in our hearts.

Questions hover like ornaments dangling from the tree boughs: What will the new year bring? Can I get on my feet financially? Will these health concerns resolve? Can I find some reconciliation for this broken relationship? Will this career opportunity I’ve been working for all these years finally come to fruition? Will I find love?

Yuletide carols with saccharine choruses can do only so much to keep these fears and questions tucked away. But what if we didn’t keep them tucked away? What if we tried three experiments this Advent and Christmas season?

I know what you’re thinking: Is Christmas really the time for experimentation?Don’t I have shopping to finish, gifts to wrap, parties to attend, and family to fight? You do, but wouldn’t you also like to enter the new year with less trembling hands and a more trusting heart?

Experiment 1: Pause

What would it look like for you to let some things go? Go with me here for a second. When Christmas comes around, none of our regular responsibilities end. We layer ribbons and bows on top of our already busy lives: more commitments, more consumption, more chaos.

But what if you could subtract this year instead of only adding? We all have some things we can pause—or let go altogether. We may even reach the New Year and find the world hasn’t missed a beat in their absence, but our hearts will be beating at a more peaceful pace. With a friend or a spouse (and a cup of hot chocolate to keep things cozy, of course), make a list of what you can let go.

There’s a freedom to this practice, which is also an expression of trust. You’re coming before the Lord as a finite human being and submitting your humanity to him. You’re leaving room for his grace and mercy to deescalate the fear and anxiety that have become commonplace at year’s end.

Experiment 2: Pray

One of the things I love about texting is that my wife and I can constantly be in conversation, keeping our lives more deeply entwined. We’re almost always aware of what each other is doing, how the other is feeling, and what good and anxious things the other might be facing. We also give each other plenty of space, but texting often allows us to stay communicative with one another and, even more important, to pray for each other well.

Our prayer life should be a similarly constant conversation with God. Ongoing prayer teaches us to fill him in on all the details, to understand that nothing is too small to share, and to develop an increasingly open and vulnerable heart in his presence.

What you need in the new year is mercy and grace, and if you have the Lord, you have access to all the mercy and grace you could possibly need. Practice ongoing prayer this month and see how it shapes your anticipation of January 1. It’s true that God doesn’t need you to tell him these things. But you do. And he wants you to come to him without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17), like the needy children we all are.

Experiment 3: Play

The jolliest time of the year can so easily sap all our jolly. But what if, after pausing some obligations, you intentionally incorporated time for rest and play into your holiday schedule?

This is easier said than done, but doing something fun with a friend is not mere frivolity. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), and making time for play can give our bodies and souls some much-needed—and sanctified—rest.

There’s nothing radical in these experiments, of course, nor are they as simple to practice as they sound. But as a source of peace amid the mayhem of the Christmas season, they can draw us closer to the One who invites us to cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). Even with a new year looming, the old hymn rings true: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Ronnie Martin is lead pastor of Substance Church (EFCA), director of leader renewal for Harbor Network, and the author of several books, including The God Who Is With Us: 25-Day Devotional for Advent (B&H).