Peace, love, and joy don’t come with price tags. Grace and mercy never require dusting or cleaning out. Make room on your wish list this season for gifts of the spirit!
Everyone loves a good, heartwarming classic like A Christmas Carol. But if we’re not careful, as the days of December pass, we’ll find ourselves looking more like stingy ol’ Scrooge than grateful Tiny Tim.
It’s easy to allow the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to stress us out, steal our joy, and make us crabby and irritable. We catch ourselves clenching our fists in fear rather than opening them wide in surrender. We try to teach our children about the joy of giving while miserably clutching our pennies and dimes.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the holiday season to find me with my shoulders slumped and my hands shoved deep in my pockets, protecting my change. We might look at Scrooge and think we’re doing okay in comparison, that we would never be viewed as selfish and miserly as he—but remember, that very attitude is what got the Pharisees in trouble Luke 18:11 (EWV): "The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.'"
Rather than compare yourself to others, do a heart check this holiday and check out ten signs you might be acting like a Scrooge this season and don’t even know it:
1. You Don't Want to Give Your Money
This is probably the most obvious. You’re eyeing your Christmas list and your online bank account, and don’t think the numbers are going to crunch. So instead of trusting God and giving freely, you turn a shoulder to the need in front of you and clutch your purse a little tighter. This kind of mindset is fear-based. Yes, we need to act with a measure of responsibility and not throw our money away, but when the Holy Spirit nudges your heart to give, it’s a good idea to do it. Trust Him and write the check to the church or hand over that $10 bill to the shivering homeless man on the corner. Sponsor a child for Christmas. Bring your own children into the shopping process and teach them it’s not just about getting. There are so many opportunities this time of year to show our kids the real meaning of the season—so let’s lead by example!
2. You Don’t Want to Give Your Time
Sometimes, it’s easier to give money than our time. With our busy to-do lists during the holiday (and honestly, all year round!), sometimes we just can’t make ourselves scribble our name on the sign-up sheet. There is wisdom in not overloading yourself or your family’s schedule, but if you realize you’re not volunteering anywhere, ever—it’s time for a reevaluation. There’s a big difference between self-care and just being selfish. Don’t be afraid to sign up and give of yourself this holiday.
3. You Don’t Want to Give Your Energy
Energy can be expensive. This time of year, the temptation to stay exhausted is strong. We might be willing to give of our money and time, but finding the energy to be fully present can be really hard. It’s easier to veg on our phones and zone out from the world, but our families need us. Peace and wholeness during the busy Christmas season aren’t found in scrolling but in being invested in the things of the Lord and loving those around us. Ask the Lord to fill your cup with energy to overflow onto others.
4. You Don’t Want to Give Your Emotion
Like energy, time, and money cost us something, so does sharing vulnerability. This holiday season, do you find yourself distancing your heart from those around you? It might be your kids, your spouse, or your church family…or it might even be the stranger in the store that you have zero patience or compassion for. Don’t be afraid to give of your emotions via a smile, a hug, or a genuine conversation. Holding yourself back doesn’t bless anyone around you, but giving of your heart is a true gift that’s meant to be shared.
5. You Don’t Want to Give Your Creativity
Maybe this season you’re burned out and unable to give of your creative effort the way you usually do. If you’re skilled in a particular art and find yourself unwilling to share it with others, you might need a heart check. Are you a singer who doesn’t want to join the Christmas choir this year? Are you a writer who can’t stand the thought of sending a Christmas card in the mail? Get to the root of your burnout and ask the Lord to shift your weariness into resourcefulness.
6. You’re Focused on Money Instead of the Manger
Are you finding yourself this season spending more time in your online shopping cart than in your Advent devotional? Are you constantly pulling up your bank account balance or juggling numbers on a spreadsheet? We tend to think greed is only when we’re obsessed with wanting more money, but that’s not necessarily the case. It can also look like being too focused on money at all. Staying hyper-aware of our finances, even from a fear-based perspective, is still a problem because anything that takes our focus and trust away from the Lord is an idol. This Christmas, keep your eyes on the manger. Let the rest fall into place.
7. You’re Selfish Instead of Selfless
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with being a martyr at times. Just the other day, I was doing the dishes and griping about the dishes, all while my children stood behind me and offered to do them instead. I wanted them to have taken the initiative to do the dishes, not ask while I’m doing them myself. Regardless, instead of turning over the chore to them, I kept at it alone while complaining the entire time. Sometimes, being self-focused looks like hard work or something worthy of pity. Be aware! Focus your heart on how you can serve others this season rather than whether anyone is serving you.
8. You’re Consumed with Getting Instead of Giving
The “gimmies” don’t always reserve themselves to children. During the holidays, it’s possible for parents/adults to be consumed with what they might get during the year instead of being focused on what they’re giving. If you’ve dropped hints to your spouse or best friend about the ideal present you’re hoping to unwrap, are you going to be okay if you don’t get it? Will you be mildly disappointed, or will it ruin your day? How badly are you adhering your hopes to tangible items to bring you happiness this holiday instead of the abstract qualities of the heart? Peace, love, and joy don’t come with price tags. Grace and mercy never require dusting or cleaning out. Make room on your wish list this season for gifts of the spirit!
9. You’re Generous with Attitude Instead of Beatitudes
Are you quick to dole out frustration or sarcasm this season? Are you more likely to respond with aggravation rather than patience? If that’s the case, you might be more generous with attitude than beatitudes! This holiday, do yourself a favor and think about how blessed it is to be poor in spirit…to mourn…to be meek…to hunger and thirst for righteousness…to be merciful, pure in heart, and a peacemaker…to welcome persecution rather than despise it. For you this Christmas, that might look like going back for seconds of the Bread of Life instead of the chocolate cookies. It might be you focusing on those who are sad this Christmas and making an effort to cheer them up…to thirst for more of God, rather than more eggnog. To dole out mercy and aim for peace when family arguments arise. And, especially when it comes to your husband and kids—to not insist on your own way this holiday.
10. You’re Feeling More Stressed Than Blessed
Are you taking time this Christmas to stop and simply acknowledge the faces of the people gathered around the table with you? Or are you more worried about refilling everyone’s glass and making sure the wrapping paper is thrown away, and the kids share their new toys? There’s always a reason to be stressed, but if you start counting, you might just find there’s even more reason to feel blessed. Write down the things you’re thankful for this holiday and keep that list in reach as the stress of the Christmas countdown begins. Yes, there are a hundred things to do, but remember why you’re doing them and, more importantly, who you’re doing them for. It might be just the thing to turn you from opening-credits Scrooge to closing-credits Scrooge. ::wink::
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Tommaso79
Betsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of over twenty romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her hubby, two daughters, an impressive stash of coffee mugs, and one furry Schnauzer-toddler. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored to truth. When she’s not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can be found somewhere in the vicinity of an iced coffee. She is a regular contributor to iBelieve.com and offers author coaching and editorial services via Storyside LLC.