Even though Christmas – Jesus Christ’s birthday – should be a time that naturally draws all of us into closer relationships with Christ, too often it’s a season that pulls us farther away from the Savior. Why? Our culture emphasizes the celebration over the relationship, focusing on gifts, parties, music, baking, decorations and other aspects of the holiday that are wonderful, yet possible to do without necessarily growing any closer to Christ. Sometimes, we get so caught up in celebrating that we forget about connecting with the One who’s the reason for our celebrations.
That can change for you this year, if you intentionally devote yourself to Christ as your beloved during the holiday season. Here are 5 ways to rekindle your relationship with Christ this Christmas:
1. Deepen your prayer life. Since prayer is the main way you communicate with God, and frequent communication is vital to build any kind of close relationship, make prayer a high priority every day during this holiday season. Evaluate your life in fresh ways that Christmas brings to mind, such as how much compassion you have in your heart and how well you’re dealing with stress. Ask God to show you specific attitudes and behaviors in your life that are interfering with your intimacy with him. Then confess those sins and receive God’s forgiveness. Pray for God to empower you, through his Holy Spirit, to grow to become more like the person he wants you to become. Pray for guidance about how to cultivate more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – in your life during this Christmas season.
2. Seek to learn more about God’s different names through every Christmas activity you include on your schedule. Before committing your time and energy to a Christmas season activity, ask “How will this help me move closer to Christ?” If you don’t see a clear, specific way that a certain activity will do so, don’t give it a place on your holiday season schedule. Invest only in activities that will truly help you get to know God better. Focusing on activities that help you reflect on God’s names mentioned in the Bible will rekindle your love for Christ in fresh ways. Just as dating couples love to learn more about each other’s qualities, you can passionately get to know more about your first love, Christ, by learning the qualities that his names express. While you’re eating Christmas cookies, for instance, you can reflect on how Christ is the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35). As you drive around enjoying Christmas lights, you can celebrate that Christ is the “Light of the World” (John 8:12). If you’re feeling sad about dysfunction in your family at holiday events, you can consider how Christ is your “everlasting father” and “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
3. Practice the presence of God. Since the essence of Christmas is God’s incarnation with humanity, the Christmas season is the perfect time to practice connecting with God – who is constantly present with you – throughout each day. The habit of tuning into God’s presence in mundane moments comes from a classic Christian book called The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, who worked in the kitchens of a monastery in 1600s Paris and wrote about how God is always with people in the work of their daily lives. In his book, Brother Lawrence advised about relating to Christ: “Lift up your heart to him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to him. One need not cry out very loudly; he is nearer to us than we think.” Remind yourself often of Christ’s presence with you as Immanuel (which means “God is with us”) – thanks to Christmas! Whenever you think of that reality, take a few moments to communicate with Christ in prayer, wherever you happen to be at the time.
4. Simplify your lifestyle amid Christmas commercialism. The original Christmas in Bethlehem was distinguished by simplicity. Rather than coming to Earth into a family of wealth and status, Christ chose to come into a family of poor and humble – yet devoutly faithful – people: Joseph and Mary. Christ clearly valued spiritual riches over material riches, so it’s ironic that his birthday has become so full of commercialism. This year, resist cultural pressures to buy and experience as much as possible. Scale back to make room in your lifestyle to enjoy simple pleasures this holiday season, like drinking a cup of hot cocoa while listening to Christmas carols or taking a walk around your neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. When friends and family members come to visit you, don’t worry about trying to impress them with elaborate hospitality. Instead, relax and simply enjoy each other’s company however works best for you.
5. Give to the poor, and get to know some of them. Christ made it clear in Matthew 25:40 how closely he identifies with poor people: “…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” When you obey his call to help poor people, you can’t help but grow closer to him, because you’re doing what’s close to his heart. During the holiday season, you’ll probably be deluged by opportunities to reach out to the poor, either by donating your time through volunteer work or contributing your money to a worthy charity. Pray for guidance on which specific ways would be best for you to focus on, and when you get some clarity about that, don’t hesitate to follow through. If possible, try to get to know some of the poor people you’re helping personally. Spend some time with them, listen to their stories, and develop friendships. That way you can continue to be a blessing to them – and them to you – beyond the Christmas season. Ask God to teach you more about his heart through the experiences you have given this season. Pray for the ability to become a more generous person because Christ has been so generous with you, giving you the ultimate gift: salvation.
Christmas is the perfect time of year to rekindle your relationship with Christ – but you’ll have to be intentional about it. The more effort you put into focusing on your relationship with Christ, the more you’ll experience his love. That great love of his is what made the first Christmas happen!
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, produces a site about angels and miracles for About.com. She is author of the young adult inspirational novel Dream Factory (which is set during Hollywood's golden age) and writes about the power of thoughts on her “Renewing Your Mind” blog.Publication date: December 3, 2015