In the story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly old man who thinks more about pinching his pennies than generously giving on Christmas Eve. That night, he is visited by three spirits: the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. The Spirit of Christmas Present brings him to Christmas dinner at Bob Cratchit’s house, where he meets Tiny Tim, a young joyous boy who is seriously ill. It is through these three spirits that Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man who gives generously to all and realizes the true meaning of Christmas. The story, since its 1843 debut, has been adapted to screen many times and sends the main message that a life well lived is lived with generosity and helping others rather than with selfish greed.
The Christmas season is a magical time that brings great joy to many people. But for some who have experienced extreme loss or had a particularly tough year, some people may not feel like celebrating Christmas. When the children have grown up and moved out of the house, Christmas tends to lose its magic. It may be easy for some to skimp on holiday celebrations or, worse, skip the holiday altogether.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Christian Fregnan
1. You're Skimping on Christmas Gifts
While there's nothing wrong with cutting costs during the Christmas season, if you find you are combing through the clearance aisles or grabbing a handful of gift cards on the way out of the grocery store, you are low-key skimping on Christmas gifts. If Christmas gift shopping is too stressful, think of it this way: giving someone a special gift shows how much they are loved and appreciated. Handing them a gift card is impersonal and implies they must do the shopping themselves. Set a budget and put effort into each gift you must purchase. Reflect on each person and think about their likes and dislikes. What one gift would they like to have that would express to them how well you know them? Remember, it is not the money but the thought that counts.
2. You Refuse to Sing Christmas Carols
After Thanksgiving, some radio and satellite stations dedicate the whole month of December to playing Christmas music. Although some stations play contemporary and classic Christmas carols, each song was created to bring Christmas joy and to focus on Jesus. If you are missing your Christmas spirit this year, turn your dial to a station dedicated only to Christmas carols. Don't just listen to the lyrics but reflect on what they say. Many are rich in theology and highlight facts about the Christmas story. Imagine what it would have been like if you were a part of the Christmas story. What would you see? Smell? Experience? Transport yourself into the historical account of Jesus's birth. Read the Gospel accounts to help you understand what that night was like.
3. Hallmark is Banned on Your Streaming Apps
Beginning in October, the Hallmark Channel plays many holiday movies that promote good moral values and happy endings. With scenes free of foul language, violence, and nudity, these are great movies to use as an escape from a long, hard day. If you find you have deleted the Hallmark Channel app, you may just be a Scrooge. While some Hallmark movies can be corny, they often help us reminisce about past decades when networks aired good, clean content. On your day off, watch a couple of Hallmark Christmas classics. Research the women and men who choose to act in them. Many of these actors are Christians who have taken a stand to not star in secular content that compromises their faith. With this deeper understanding, you may claim a new affinity for these holiday romantic films.
4. You Stopped Sending Christmas Cards
Sending Christmas cards can take a lot of work and effort. It can also be expensive if you choose to do a photo card. Because of this, you may decide to skip sending Christmas cards altogether this year. Although sending Christmas cards is time-consuming, think of the joy you receive when you open your mailbox and find a timely note or photo from an old friend or family member. If you have had a tough year, it may be difficult to read someone else's Christmas letter gushing with all the wonderful ways God has blessed them over the year. Challenge yourself to rejoice in others' triumphs and make a point to reach out to them after you've read their letter. Congratulate them on the ways you see God at work in their lives. It may open the door to a conversation about faith, but at the very least, it will shift your thinking from one of complaint to one of gratitude.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ninitta
5. You Procrastinate on Putting up the Tree
Most people who put up a Christmas tree do so within three to four weeks before the holiday. Some even leave it up a few weeks after the holiday to enjoy the beauty and splendor of a well-decorated Christmas tree. But if the thought of cutting down a Christmas tree or adorning your tree with tinsel fills your mind with dread, you may be acting more like a Scrooge than a Tiny Tim. Many families share a holiday tradition of decorating the tree together on a certain day. If your family is far away or you have experienced the death of a loved one this year, you may not want to enjoy that Christmas tradition this year. If this is the case for you, use it as an opportunity to relive happier memories.
Sort through your ornaments and recall the specific time or place you received them. If this triggers grief for you, allow it to be a time of healing for you. Buy a smaller tree and consider putting up only a fraction of your ornaments. Many tabletop trees come already strung with lights, making it easy for you to simply hang the ornaments. Plug it in and enjoy the splendor of the twinkling lights, dazzling tinsel, and memories of years gone by. While reliving painful memories may be difficult, it will also be an opportunity to reflect on how those ornaments blessed you with the joy you experienced when your child gave you a handmade ornament or other Christmas craft. If you host family for the holiday, take the time to explain each ornament and its significance. Your heart will be filled with joy rather than grief as you ponder past holiday memories and happy times with your loved ones.
6. You’ve Forgotten the Reason for the Season
Lastly, if you find yourself lamenting over the Christmas season, complaining about the extra traffic, a knot in the Christmas lights, or how inflation has increased the price of gifts, your mind is not centered around the real reason for the Christmas season: Jesus. Jesus is the best gift we have or will ever receive. We don't have to participate in the Christmas season. But we get to celebrate it. Many countries cannot celebrate the birth of Jesus freely without fear of persecution or even death. Consider how lucky we are to live in a country where we can celebrate our religion in freedom. We don't have to participate in every Christmas tradition to keep Jesus as the focus this year.
For 25 days from December 1st to the 25th, commit to reading a Gospel account of Jesus's birth, death, and resurrection. Although Easter is the holiday to remember Jesus's resurrection, it is easy to get bogged down in the to-do list and activities and forget about what Jesus's birth gave us: salvation. Reading scripture daily will help re-wire our brains to stop complaining about all we have to do and start rejoicing in the season that celebrates the baby born in a manger in Bethlehem many years ago.
Even the Scrooge is a well-known (and disliked) character, the story A Christmas Carol demonstrates even the hardest of hearts can soften and change with a shift in perspective. Don't let this Christmas turn you into a miser, but instead take the example of Jesus and participate in Christmas with humility, generosity, and love, which is the greatest gift of all.
Photo Credit: ©SparrowStock
Originally published Monday, 24 October 2022.