Whether we like it or not, outside sources like gifts, cards, and decorations become the focus of every Christmas. We save money and search every store in hopes of buying the perfect gift for every person on our Christmas list. We go to several tree farms just to buy the perfect tree, then to decorate it in matching ornaments so we can proudly display it on our social media platforms. We think we're doing great—that is—until we see other people's gifts and decorations. And that's when the sneaky sin of jealousy creeps into our hearts. Instead of making room in our hearts for Jesus, he gets crowded out with envy and jealousy over other people's possessions.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Jealousy has no place in the heart of the Christian, especially during the holidays. Jealousy, if gone unchecked, can cause a whole host of other emotional and spiritual issues and hinder us from having the intimate relationship with the Savior we desire.
Here are six ways jealousy might be creeping into your holiday:
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1. You Outdo Your Friends for the Best Gift
A common conversation starter over the holidays is, “What do you want for Christmas?” Another great question to ask your friends and family is what they are giving for Christmas. But if you feel enraged when you hear about an expensive Xbox or other gift someone you know might be getting, jealousy has wormed its way into your heart. If you are stretching an overextended budget to compete with other people's gifts, you might have some jealousy you need to deal with.
With inflation and skyrocketing prices, it really is the thought that counts. Many people cannot afford the gifts they once could in previous years. This shouldn't make you upset or feel like you must reach a certain financial level to make Christmas special for friends and family. Welcoming the New Year with a mound of debt is not a smart way to start. Give yourself the gift of a debt-free New Year by buying within your means or crafting homemade gifts. You can also get creative and shop at thrift stores to make your Christmas budget stretch a bit more.
2. Hosting Family in a Place with No Spare Room
If you feel like you must hoist family because other family members have done so for other holidays, you may be struggling with jealousy. If you look at your living space with disgust because it's smaller than other family members’ homes, you need to re-think your priorities. God has provided you with ample space to live. Jesus had no home to live in, yet he enjoyed fellowship with people he encountered by going to their homes.
Give yourself a break and enjoy the space God has given your other family members. Don’t resort to competition to make yourself feel better. Take time to comment on how beautiful their home is and how happy you are for them that they have it. Don't covet your friends or family’s space. Instead, be grateful for what God has given you and plan accordingly.
3. Overdecorating Your Space
After you have wrangled Christmas boxes from the attic and dusty closet shelves, take stock of the decorations you have. If you are looking at them with disdain because you feel they are too cheap or too gaudy for the tree, it is time to re-evaluate your priorities. Your tree does not have to match the next-door neighbors, nor does every banister and fireplace mantle have to be overstuffed with Nativity scenes, wreaths, or garland. When you over-decorate, you create clutter that only requires additional clean-up time and maintenance. Ask yourself, “Why do I need all these decorations? Is Christmas really about garland that lights up or velvet bows perfectly tied to each wreath?”
If you have not journaled in a while, now might be the time to start. Buy a journal and write down the following question: “What does Christmas mean to me?” Start by recalling all your favorite past Christmas memories. What did the Christmas memories involve? Do you grow up in a home that had simpler Christmases, or ones that were more complicated? If your Christmas was simpler, did you still enjoy the holiday? Perhaps the homemade popcorn garland was the perfect accessory for the tree. If your Christmas was more complicated, what type of emotions do you associate with it? Anger? Fear? Anxiousness? Could all the excess be why Christmas left you on edge?
Regulating your emotions, especially jealousy, will ensure a happier holiday and the peace that comes from knowing God has provided you with many wonderful things. You do not need someone else's things to achieve the joy the Savior gives freely.
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4. Writing a Less-Than-Honest Christmas Letter
Christmas is a time when many people write letters highlighting the highs and lows of their year. Others send Christmas cards with beautiful, glossy pictures. This can easily become an opportunity for people to brag about everything they have. This naturally creates shaky ground for a jealous heart. If you find you are reading the Christmas letter and grumbling or mocking the smiles in the photos you see, you need a heart check. Additionally, if you find you want to write a Christmas letter that overexaggerates your year, you may also be struggling with jealousy. Don't write a Christmas letter for the sake of writing one. Lying won't pave the way for comfort and joy in this season.
If you write a Christmas letter each year, be honest. That Christmas letter goes to friends and family who are close to you and love you for who you are. There is no need to have to impress them to make them like you. If it has been a tough year, make your Christmas letter one that shares prayer requests and openly shares your struggles. You may find it draws you closer to your family because you let them know about your difficulties. Additionally, reach out to those who wrote Christmas letters that had wonderful highlights. Let them know how happy you are that they had a great year and that you will be praying for them. By choosing to compliment them rather than complain, you shove jealousy out the door of your heart.
5. Making Holiday Meals You Won't Eat
A great Christmas memory you may share with your parents or children is making Christmas cookies. Or perhaps your family hosts gingerbread house competitions and hot cocoa parties. But too many Christmas cookies today can lead to too many pounds tomorrow—the same goes for gumdrop buttons and marshmallows. If you are re-creating that holiday memory out of fear your loved ones won't have a great Christmas, jealousy may have snuck its way in. You do not need to re-create memories from the past to make the present Christmas more memorable. Be content with what you have, work within your limitations, and give to those in need. Instead of needing to nail Grandma's Christmas cookie recipe, try this recipe of giving to others and creating new traditions. That will ensure the best holiday ever.
Likewise, just because your office or church is hosting a Christmas bake sale doesn't mean you must participate. If you barely have time to read your Bible and pray amid the holiday bustle, do you really have time to bake a cake or master that Christmas casserole? If your nerves are on the line, candy canes and powdered sugar can hold off, friend.
Although some treasured Christmas memories might revolve around a special gift, most memories revolve around the family you had around you, the laughter after playing a board game, or the tear shed after watching a touching Christmas film. Sometimes the simpler the Christmas, the bigger the memories. When you choose to simplify your life and bar yourself from the consumeristic mindset today's Christmas culture brings, the happier you'll be and the better chance you will have to enjoy a wonderful holiday.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Erol Ahme
Originally published Tuesday, 29 November 2022.