What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Christmas? Is it joy? Weariness? Family? Loneliness? Busyness? Peace? Expense? Delight? If you’re feeling overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) by the holiday season maybe it’s time to turn Christmas on its head.
Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, wrote “We’re hanging Christmas upside down this year because we’re giving the whole Christmas season to Jesus and His Upside Down Kingdom, not just some tossed crusty edge of of it.” (You can read the rest of her excellent post, “An Upside Christmas” on her blog.) I love that picture of Jesus at the true heart of Christmas. It’s not presents (even though I love presents). It’s not the baking or the decorations, or even time spent with family or caroling by candle light at church on Christmas Eve.
It’s not up to you to make this Christmas extraordinary. Christmas is pretty spectacular all on its own. Christmas is a celebration of love and hope incarnate. It’s a season to focus on the incredible gift given to us. If it doesn’t feel like a season of rejuvenation, it’s time to turn things upside down. Focus on that hope and don’t be afraid to make some changes.
If you’re feeling lonely:
- Is there someone I could invite over to spend the day with?
- Is there somewhere I could volunteer?
- Is there someone I need to reconcile with?
At the end of Matthew 28 Jesus gives us this great promise, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” There may be times when you feel very alone, but you can know for sure that Jesus is always with you. He has not forgotten you or left you behind. In Isaiah 9:6 Jesus is called the Wonderful Counselor. Draw close to Him.
If you’re feeling financially stretched:
- Have I included some charitable giving in my Christmas budget?
- Do I need to adjust expectations?
- Are there people I could send a card to rather than a gift? Could a gift exchange lessen the financial burden?
In Matthew 6:31-33 Jesus reminds us, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus is the Mighty God, more than capable of taking care of your needs. Lean in to Him. When we honor God with our finances He has a way of stretching our resources. Whether you’ve been wise or foolish with your money (and haven’t most of us been both?) bring your concerns to Jesus and let Him carry the load.
If you’re grieving:
- Is there a tradition that you’re not able to do this year? Especially when you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one there may be some things that are too painful this year. Is it time to start a new tradition?
- Do you need some time alone? Do you need to be around people?
- Is there something special you can do to honor the memory of the loved one who is not here this year?
In John 16:33 Jesus says,“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus is the Everlasting Father. He brings us into the family of God and that’s a family that is ours forever. Jesus is “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”. (Isaiah 53:3) He is also the hope of Heaven. Let Him be your hope this Christmas, even if you need to hope quietly.
If you’re feeling rushed:
Take a good look at your calendar. Consider which things you need to do, versus those you’d really like to do. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is your favorite Christmas activity? Is there time for it?
- Have I committed to too much? If the answer is yes, what can be taken off the list?
- Is there anything you’re doing purely out of habit? Is there a new tradition you’d like to try instead?
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus issues an invitation, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace; let Him teach you what rest looks like.
The beautiful thing about Christmas is that it’s not all about you, but it is most definitely FOR you. Christmas is all about a love that, as Eugene Peterson so beautifully put it in his paraphrase of John 1:14, “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” We celebrate Christmas because Jesus stepped down out of Heaven. Christmas is the love of God up close and personal; quite literally, the birth of our salvation.
Don’t miss that moment.