‘Peace on earth, goodwill to men! ‘Tis the season to be jolly…!’
Alas, for many of us Christmas is instead a time of overspending on presents, overeating on turkey and overheating with family. However, there are things we can do that may help to make Christmas more satisfying than perhaps it has been.
1. Christmas is about Jesus, not just Jingle Bells
We know we should be thrilled and excited about God becoming a man, but all too often we allow time with God to be squeezed out. Instead, we end up feeling spiritually flat after a frantic, party-filled, sleep-deprived, overdraft-fuelled, rush of a Christmas.
The answer is to feed on God's word. Why not read through the Christmas story in the Bible, praying that the Holy Spirit will stir us again with the awe and wonder of God becoming man (there are some suggested reading plans at the end of this paper that take you through the Christmas story). Time is more pressured than ever at Christmas, so we will need to be disciplined and block out times in our diaries when we as individuals or families will do this. It would be a shame to starve ourselves spiritually while we’re feasting physically!
And as we hear the same trite Christmas songs piping out from every shop over the next month, trilling away about peace on earth and happiness, make a conscious effort to remember what these things really mean, and thank God for the real peace, joy and love that He has given us.
2. Christmas is about Grace, not Desserts
Don’t worry, that’s not a comment about meal-times!
At Christmas we often feel duty bound to see family members or old friends whom we find difficult, with whom relationships are strained. The expectation that Christmas brings of happiness and joy only adds to the strain – as does my selfish desire that nothing gets in the way of me having a good time! However, at Christmas we remember that while Father Christmas only gives presents to good children, God gave his precious Son to undeserving sinners like you and me.
The more we reflect on what God has given us in Christ Jesus, the more we grasp how undeserving we were and are of him, the more we understand how compassionate God has been to us, the easier we will find it to show grace and kindness to others, even when they deserve it as little as we deserved God’s gracious gift of his own Son!
3. Christmas is about Christ, not Credit Cards
In the UK, the amount spent on Christmas presents works out as £310 by every man, woman and child. The pressure to buy more and more expensive presents for more and more people often leads to financial worries and family arguments.
- The first thing we should do as Christians is to prayerfully consider our finances, thanking God for what we have and working out what we will do with the money God has entrusted to us. We might consider a Christmas gift to church or to a charity helping persecuted Christians.
- It is wise to set a budget, so that we know exactly how much we are spending on presents, rather than living with the anxiety of financial uncertainties and the dread of our January credit card bill. Furthermore, couples should agree to spend the same amount on each other and then enjoy being creative within that budget. It saves on arguments and disappointment!
- We should consider giving gifts that benefit people spiritually – the church bookstall has a great selection of books for giving to people at every stage of their spiritual journey.
- Lastly, let’s remember that the greatest Christmas gift of all time is not an iPhone or an Xbox, it is God’s own Son Jesus, given to save us from our sins, and bring us eternal life. Christmas gives us a wonderful opportunity to be very generous to all sorts of people with God’s great gift. People love coming to carol services, so be generous – give Christ Jesus to everyone you can – invite your whole street, your whole office, all your friends to receive God’s free gift in Jesus Christ!
4. Christmas is about Feasting, not Fasting
We need to be wise and disciplined to ensure that we look after our health and that we don’t get into trouble with alcohol at the office party.
However, we should also remember that Christmas is a time when it’s right to feast. As Christians, we have better reasons than anyone else for celebrating Christmas, so we should party better than anyone else. One great way to make Christmas more enjoyable is to develop your own traditions. Work out what it is that makes Christmas special for you. Whether it’s listening to Handel’s Messiah or watching the XFactor final, do it with friends and family, make an occasion out of it. If something works really well, put it in the diary for the next year, and make it part of the family traditions.
5. Christmas is about Choirs, not Solos
We need other people with us to celebrate properly. There are many people among us who are a long way from home, or who do not have family around. Why not invite someone who may otherwise be on their own to join in your family festivities? And if you are on your own, why not extend hospitality to others in your situation.
Finally, some top questions to ask each other at Christmas
1. What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
2. What are you most looking forward to about this Christmas?
3. What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
4. What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
5. What was your favourite Christmas tradition as a child?
6. What is your favourite Christmas tradition now?
7. What do you do to try to keep Christ in Christmas?