Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. Between the festive decorations, family traditions, movies, and Christmas tunes, it has brought much holiday cheer. As a child, it was my favorite holiday as I always anticipated what gifts my parents had wrapped under the decorative tree. As an adult, I have new eyes to see the beauty of Christmas beyond the presents.
Most years seem hurried leading up to Christmas as people are rushing to shop and find the best gifts at the right price for their loved ones, but as the day approaches, I find joy in pausing and giving thanks.
Christmas was never meant to be a season of busyness or hurry. It has become easy to get caught up in the superficial aspects of Christmas; yet I think it is important that we remember how this holiday is much more than presents, decorations, and holiday movies. This day commemorates the birth of our Savior, the One who came to earth to die for our sins. The One who paid it all for you and me.
Christmas has been labeled as a season of giving, where many choose to give to those who are in need during this time which is important. As much as it is about giving to others, Christmas is also a reminder of the greatest gift we received — Immanuel, which means God is with us (Matthew 1:23).
With this perspective in mind, I believe there are 4 ways we can celebrate Christmas better:
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1. Remember the Wait
Advent is a time of waiting with expectancy. The Advent season is the period of time where God's people waited for the birth of Jesus Christ. They had heard of this Savior to come, yet there was a period of silence and waiting. All they had was the promise:
"For to us a Child will be born. To us a Son will be given. And the rule of the nations will be on His shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Teacher, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)
Waiting is never fun but leading up to Christmas, I find significance in waiting with the right perspective. It is no longer the type of waiting for the early morning of Christmas to open up gifts under the tree, it is about waiting to celebrate the birth of the One who was overlooked, despised, and rejected, yet He was sent to carry the punishment for our sins for our salvation (Isaiah 53:2-6).
When it comes to waiting with expectancy, I often think about pregnant women and how they await the birth of their sweet new baby to come. They prepare their home for the baby’s arrival but there is a waiting process along the way. A process where, as much as they plan, there is still a surrendering that takes place to prepare and wait for their child to come at the right time.
The truth is, we all have something or someone we are waiting for; something that our heart desires. This season of Advent reminds us how we can wait expectantly; knowing it can come to pass in God’s appointed time. Advent pours hope into our hearts and reminds us to prepare, wait, and trust God’s timing to bring it to pass.
As believers, we should always be in a position of waiting; not just for our desires but more importantly, waiting for His return.
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2. Choose Joy
Even in difficult seasons, joy can pour from your heart. Joy is not a feeling based on circumstances; instead, it comes from our confident hope in Jesus Christ. Since we know how good He is and what He has done for us, we can choose joy in every circumstance.
The ability to choose joy is a result of our ability to trust God no matter what comes our way.
Christmas is a great reminder of joy because it should always be centered on the One who gives it to us. The Bible says that His joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Therefore, joy can be our response even in a difficult year, and even if Christmas looks different.
Joy can be our heart’s response to the One who has gifted us with it.
Proverbs 17:22 reminds us that a joyful heart is good medicine, which illustrates how it is good for us to choose it.
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3. Cultivate a Heart of Worship
Christmas is a beautiful time of worship. When the star stopped where Jesus was born, the Bible tells us that the wise men were filled with joy. When they went in and saw Jesus, it says they bowed down and worshipped Him (Matthew 2:9-11). Every time I read this, my heart gets full as I imagine the wise men were so in awe to know that the One they had been waiting for had finally arrived and their first response was to worship Him. It says they worshipped, then presented gifts.
Our worship puts the perspective on the One deserving of all things. It keeps our hearts tuned to Jesus, the one who Christmas is all about. As you listen to your favorite Christmas songs, remember the One who is holy, faithful, and worthy of all our praise.
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4. Create Lasting Memories
One thing I love about the holidays is receiving cards from friends and family. I love seeing how much their families have grown, and just seeing pictures of those who I may not get to see often.
As we navigate the pandemic, Christmas may look different for many. Christmas has always been a time to celebrate and fellowship with family or friends; yet everything around us tells us not to do so this year. Even with all of the precautions in place, I believe community is one of the best parts about making memories during Christmas. We can creatively and safely find ways to give thanks for the family and friends God has gifted us.
To celebrate family and friends in this season is to thank God for those He has placed in our lives, to cherish the time He has given us with them, and to choose to create lasting memories, even if it looks different.
Your community can also be the very reason why some may feel a sense of heaviness in this season. Maybe it is because of the loss of loved ones that makes it hard to sense the joy in this season or maybe it is a feeling of loneliness during the holidays while you are single.
No matter the circumstance, I believe there are still reasons to rejoice. If you are reading this post today, that means God has gifted you with life. Your life may look different than you anticipated this holiday season, but there are still reasons to thank God for the blessings that He has given you and trust Him with your brokenness, with your loss, and ask Him to send divine blessings through others to partner with you in this season. Time is a gift for us to steward well. Let’s create memories in this season that last a lifetime.
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Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus
Christmas is a beautiful season to remind us of Jesus’ birth. It is a decorative time to rejoice in who He is; yet we can’t have the trees, the lights, or the songs without inviting Him into this season. Jesus is truly the reason for Christmas and we can celebrate His birth and reflect on what He did and continues to do for us.
He deserves our hearts and attention this season. If we focus more on the presents this Christmas, we lose focus on the One who is the giver of all things. The One who has already given us more than we could ask for and more than we deserve.
Christmas is all about Jesus, but it is up to each of us to keep Him at the center.
How will you approach Christmas this year?
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Originally published Wednesday, 02 December 2020.