Are the holidays a stressful time for you, or do you look forward to them? Are you concerned with having enough time and money to shop, or do you have a plan and budget? Are the decorations another hassle to deal with, or do you love the festive look and include the kids in the activity?
I started out on the stressed, concerned, hassle side of viewing the holidays and have been moving toward looking forward, planning, and having the kids participate side over the course of our nineteen years of marriage. I would pause on Christmas Day to actually remember Jesus’ birth and be humbled by the story each year, but for the most part, the weeks leading up to Christmas caused anxiety for me.
I don’t think Jesus wants his birthday to be stressful, do you? I realized I had lost focus of Jesus during his birthday celebration. I wanted a perfectly decorated house (though décor is definitely not a gift of mine), a tree that wasn’t touched by little hands that could break ornaments, gifts for everyone I could think of no matter how much time away from family it took to shop (in the days before the internet came about), and a task list a mile long that I didn’t want anyone to get in the way of so we could have the “perfect” holiday. Looking back on it all, and while still working on some wrong behaviors, that doesn’t make for a “holy-day.”
So after repenting of not focusing on the person of Jesus, I came up with a list of four things not to do this Christmas, with God's help:
1. Don’t be a Scrooge.
Don’t be so uptight and task-focused that no one, including your spouse and kids, wants to be around you. Let people participate in the activities and traditions, even if they have a new way of doing it. Kids are naturally joyful, so borrow some of their joy and have fun baking, decorating, shopping, singing, and laughing. Don’t take that joy from them, participate in it.
2. Don’t forget to give generously…and to receive graciously.
Don’t be so concerned with giving gifts that you forget to receive graciously. I love to give and sometimes have a hard time receiving. I need to let others enjoy giving as well. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, don’t be so obsessed with receiving gifts that you don’t give generously. Jesus gave us the most important gifts of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. There is no excuse for being greedy, especially when we are celebrating the birth of the Giver.
3. Don’t hold on to the past.
Don’t let a history of difficult Christmases ruin this year, too. Many holidays are hard reminders of loneliness if you’ve lost a loved one or you aren’t in a loving community or family, financial pressures, or unresolved family tension. This year can, by God’s grace, be different. Focus on Jesus and as Proverbs 3:5–8 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”
4. Don’t forget Jesus.
It’s his birthday that we are celebrating at Christmas—not Santa, gifts, trees, holiday performances, shopping/sales, snow, cookies, or parties. None of those things is bad if we remember Jesus first. If you want to remember who he is, read (or reread) the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They help us understand why none of what we use to celebrate would even matter if it weren’t for Jesus being born over 2,000 years ago.
Enjoy Christmas this year! Thankfully Jesus is helping me do that more and more every year—which is a wonderful Christmas gift.