Over the years I have grown to dislike Christmastime. Of course I don’t dislike what Christmas represents. I dislike what we have made it out to be. Stories of people fighting and even killing each other over trinkets during black Friday really bother me. In my own life, family politics about who is going where and this group not talking to that group can be stressful. If Jesus Himself came down to celebrate His birthday with us, I think He’d be horrified. So, in the spirit of taking Christmas back to what it was originally meant to be, here are seven ways we can improve how we celebrate Christmas.
1. Give a valuable gift
Although I’m not an expert on Christmas tradition, I’m guessing that gifts are a way to commemorate the fact that God gave us Jesus (and through him, salvation) which is the greatest gift humanity has ever received. That being said, rather than buying $5 trinkets from Walmart for anybody and everybody out of obligation, why don’t we focus on giving truly valuable gifts to important people in our lives out of love? When I say “truly valuable” I’m not necessarily talking about money. What if we spent more time hand making or customizing gifts? What if we gave someone what that they truly needed or appreciated such as a favorite food or beverage or perhaps a gift card to the local grocery store (especially if the family is struggling financially). This year, my wife and I went on shutterfly.com and made customized books for our families using pictures from our wedding. Recently, a family gave us a cutting board engraved with our names purchased from an artist on etsy.com. Every year my friend April gives me a bag of homemade cookies with a card. These things don’t cost much but they are really awesome. We have so many options nowadays, why aren’t we taking more time to really show people how valuable they are to us?
2. Give to charity
Seriously think about giving to a local charity this holiday season. I’m not talking strictly about money – it could also be time. Maybe you have a skill such as graphic design or computer repair – these skills may not seem like much to you but could really help a local organization. You should also really consider giving money. I know times are hard but most charities, like everyone else, are really struggling. Luckily, most of them send out holiday letters requesting donations. You don’t have to give much, $5, $10, or even $20 from a lot of people goes a long way. Maybe you can consider giving in honor of a loved one who passed away.
3. Embrace forgiveness
After several years of observing hardcore grudges, I’ve noticed that harboring resentment does way more damage to the resentful than the resented. In essence, someone hurts us and we hate them hoping it hurts them but we only end up hurting ourselves. We don’t see it right away but over the years, as resentment grows, it consumes much of our energy and happiness. Forgiveness is actually pretty simple and effortless in comparison. Life is so short and tough as it is, we need to let resentment go. We need to acknowledge that sometimes, others’ behavior is out of our control. We need to learn to let go and move on. Again, easier said than done but maybe Christmas can be the time where we can take a step in the right direction.
4. Don’t be ashamed
I don’t know about you but if a Jewish friend told me “Happy Hanukkah” I wouldn’t be offended. Of course I’m Christian, not Jewish, but still. Why would that offend me? Similarly, when someone says happy Kwanzaa or whatever, it doesn’t offend me. We live in a free country where people can celebrate anything they wish. This is a beautiful thing. So why would anyone be offended if I say “Merry Christmas”? We are in a country where the majority of the population is Christian (and has been traditionally) and Christmas has been celebrated consistently since our founding. So don’t be afraid to say “Merry Christmas”. Be proud of Christ’s accomplishments and don’t fall for the lie that “Merry Christmas” is offensive. If in fact someone is offended, then maybe that person has an issue with tolerance and respect for others.
5. Take someone in
Take someone in this Christmas. I don’t mean a random person off the street. I’m talking about the person we all know that perhaps doesn’t have a family. Unfortunately there are many younger and also elderly people these days that suffer from a poor family life or have no family. Nothing reflects Christ’s values better than opening your home to someone in need. You don’t have to legally adopt the person but perhaps you can invite them over for Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner. Loneliness is one of the worst afflictions one can face, especially during the holidays. Having somewhere to be on Christmas day is simple yet it can make a big difference in a person’s life.
Christmas presents a great opportunity to spend quality time with your family and friends. Though technology’s promise was to bring us closer together, it has probably done more to isolate us. We can be at a family gathering and be on the phone the whole time either on social media or checking work email. No matter how important you are, you don’t need to be working on Christmas day. Take some time to have real conversations. Ask you parents or grandparents about their life. You may discover some amazing family facts or perhaps funny stories you never knew. Once these loved ones are gone, their knowledge will also leave with them. Take some time to build deep relationships with your family and friends rather than the shallow relationships so common today. At the end of your life you won’t be thinking about all the great business deals you made, you’ll be thinking about all the people, or lack thereof, around you.
7. Connect with God
Maybe somewhere along your life journey, you fell off the spiritual wagon. Maybe you haven’t been the best Christian. Like the story of the prodigal son, it’s never too late to come back. It’s never too late to get on the right path. Luckily, in Jesus, there’s unending forgiveness – no matter what you’ve done. Use this season as an opportunity to take a step in the right spiritual direction. It’s not hard. Simply begin by asking Christ for guidance and rooting yourself in the Word. Everything else will fall into place. Remember, those who seek will find. Take some time this Christmas to begin seeking God.