The Standard December 16, 2021
Christmas is just a little over one week away and we might be striving to do a better job focusing on what is most important. Some of us have busy everyday lives and the thought of any more Christmas shopping, wrapping, cooking, or card-writing sounds more stressful than cheery. There are some things we could do to enjoy more meaning the next ten days.
First off, we could focus on the object of our celebration. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’” (Luke 2:6-11) This is the reason we celebrate. For these days leading up to December 25th our number one priority should be drawing closer to God and remembering what he has done for us. This gift of Jesus, God incarnate, transforms our lives. Listening to carols and “The Messiah,” having personal devotions, attending corporate worship, and reading Advent devotionals as a family are all good ways to keep the main thing the main thing.
Secondly, we should devote more energy to people than to things. By spending more time together with family and friends, we show them how we value them. Why not plan an at-home movie night or a game night? “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a personal favorite. Make a point to eat meals together. They don’t have to be elaborate, but might include candles or a special dessert. In the long run, our children and grandchildren will appreciate our presence more than our presents.
Thirdly, we could make our gift-giving less extravagant or less of the focus. Some parents limit each child to three gifts to signify the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the infant Jesus received. Others like the idea of giving four gifts: “Something you wear, something you need, something you want, something you read.” In our family we were better at limiting ourselves to a dollar amount than to a specific number of items.
Fourthly, we should share with those who could use some help. We don’t have to go far to hear someone ringing the bell at a Salvation Army kettle or to find a Toys for Tots drive. We could assemble little bags of toiletries for folks at the local senior center or wrap up new socks, underwear and clothes with sizes listed on the outside, for clients at the soup kitchen. Children could help us make cards and food to deliver to elderly neighbors. At least three Christian relief organizations have gift catalogs where you could send a monetary donation in the name of someone for things like chickens, goats, cows, soccer balls, medicines, and mosquito nets. Charity Navigator scores Samaritan’s Purse at 95, World Vision at 92 and Compassion International at 89. Charity Watch gives them A-, A- and A, respectively.
Finally, we should emphasize the spirit of what we are doing and not on perfection. Our homes do not have to be magazine-worthy, nor do our meals. Many of us will enjoy this Christmas season more if we put less pressure on ourselves about outward appearances and nurture the more important aspects of worship and community.