Christmas is almost here.
And that means many of us are tired, frazzled, stressed, and busy. The next two weeks will go by in a blur–from family, to church, to food, to family, to football, back to church, back to family, back to food, and then back to work.
We love Christmas. We can’t wait for the day to come, and many of us can’t wait for the season to be gone.
But whether you love every nook and cranny about the holidays–or consider most of it “noise, noise, noise!”–there is no excuse to be grinchy and scroogeish. Here are ten ways we can remember to be Christians this Christmas.
1. Sing like you mean it. Sure, there are a some Christmas carol clunkers, but there are some amazing hymns too (see Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, Of the Father’s Love Begotten, Let All Mortal Flesh, and many more). Belt them out with gusto. Smile and take delight in the familiar sounds of the season. You may not hear them for 11 more months.
2. Say thank you. Over the next week you’ll get gifts someone picked out for you and eat food someone prepared for you and enjoy hospitality someone laid out for you. We’re told to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). Surely, this includes Christmas. Stop to offer a sincere “thank you” to your mom, your husband, your kids, your aunt, your grandma, whomever–it will be good for your soul and it may just make their day.
3. Put the phone down. Go ahead and take a few pictures and post a few updates, but let’s not turn our Christmas experience into another commodity to be bought and sold. Look people in the eye. Be present in the moment. Let the world’s tragedies and scandals and funny cut videos take a back seat for a day.
4. Enjoy some cookies. Oh, the dreadful holiday pounds. Sure, we need to be on guard against gluttony. But we need to be on guard against censorious asceticism too. God created food to be received with thanksgiving. Eat up, and don’t feel bad about it. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected that is made holy by the word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4:3-5).
5. Talk to your family. Why not put in five minutes worth of thought on the way to your grandma’s house to think of five questions to ask of five different people? Maybe conversation flows easily with your family. But for many people, it takes some effort to engage our relatives, especially those we don’t see often and those with whom we have little in common. Give people the gift of your curiosity.
6. Find time to be quiet. At some point, get away and be still. Even if just for 10 minutes. Even if it’s in your bed after everyone else is asleep. Go on a walk. Take a long shower. Get up early. Sit in the dark. Stare at the tree. Just be quiet, ponder, and pray.
7. Pray for opportunities. What if we prayed for at least one opportunity in the next two weeks to share the gospel? I bet God would honor that prayer. Maybe we can talk to a friend or family member. Maybe we’ll find a surprisingly open door for conversation at the mall or out to eat or on the plane. Maybe we have not because we ask not.
8. Make a year-end gift. Your church is probably trying to make budget. So are rescue missions, crisis pregnancy centers, Christian schools, mission agencies, and dozens of other kingdom causes. Go ahead a be generous. We won’t out-give God.
9. Quit complaining. Something will go wrong this Christmas. Someone will hurt your feelings. Your parent’s house will be too hot. Your brothers house will be too cold. A meal will be barely edible. Your obnoxious friends will be extra obnoxious. Still, God is more pleased with gratitude than with grumbling. If we learn to overlook a few offenses we’ll be happier too.
10. Rejoice to hear the Story one more time. Matthew 1 and Luke 2 are coming at you. So are Isaiah 7 and 9, Micah 5, and many of the same passages you hear ever year. No bother: “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you” (Phil. 3:1). Let us pray that God gives us ears to hear, again and again, with fresh wonder that God came down to be with us and that he is with us still.