Over the past week, I have been processing the upcoming Christmas season, and thinking about the importance of not getting caught up in the consumeristic mindset of the holiday. I have brainstormed some ways that I can be intentional not to do so, because I easily get swept up in the current of more, more, more. As believers we have an amazing opportunity to show the world why Jesus came and what the true meaning of the holiday is. The other day, I let my fingers hit the keyboard and ended up producing a little “guide” on how we can keep things in perspective over the next month. I hope that this can be helpful for you too!
A constant struggle Christians face is looking different than the world around us. So often it’s easier to blend into the culture than to stand out and go against the flow. The holiday season specifically brings this battle to the forefront for us. More and more things vie for our conformity during this time of year. But our call as believers said perfectly by Paul is this: To be “blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation’”, and it is then that we will “shine as lights in the world” around us (Philippians 2:15).
Our patience, grace and love toward others need to be evaluated all the more during the Christmas season. Holidays often bring out the worst in people don’t they? Lines at the grocery store, mad dashes for gifts, difficult family reunions- all things that can stretch us and test us. As Christ-followers, we desperately need to look different from the hurting world around us. If we resemble everyone else, what hope do we have to offer that satisfaction is found in something much greater than the here and now? How can we display the glory of our beautiful Savior; the one in which the season is about in the first place?
So how do we “shine like lights” in a broken and hopeless world this holiday season? Here are five ways we can stand out over the next month:
- Bestow the Gift of Grace: The measure of grace we give others often directly reflects that which we receive and experience for ourselves. We are pushed to our limits more during the holiday season. We tend to become impatient with lines, preparations, and people’s shortcomings. If we begin our day without understanding that Jesus’ birth and death on the cross was for us and our sins, how can we extend grace to others when they fail or frustrate us? We need to remember that the Gospel is applicable for us personally each day. Before beginning your day, get in the Word and preach the Gospel to yourself. Rely on the Holy Spirit, bath yourself in Christ’s love, and seek to give the grace and love you have received first (1 John 4:9 “We love he first loved us”).
- Seek to Give First this Season: The average Joe huffs and puffs at the long line in Starbucks, angrily stomps through a crowd in frustration, and argues with the person trying to buy the last product on the shelf. What if we, as believers think first about how we can bless, encourage and uplift the people we encounter. Whether it’s buying a stranger coffee in a coffee shop or encouraging the exhausted store clerk, continually think about ways to give and display Christ’s love to those around you. Maybe it looks like getting involved in a gift-giving program such as, Angel Tree or Operation Christmas Child. Or possibly baking cookies for your neighbors or mailman. Whatever it may be, strive to give first before receiving this holiday season.
- Meditate on Christ’s Coming and Life: As Christians, we all know the real “reason for the season”, however in the hustle and bustle of everything, we can easily lose sight of it. Leading up to Christmas day, take additional time to meditate on Christ’s coming, birth and ministry. Study the Gospels or read an Advent devotional. Carefully examine the way Christ loved people. Understand His sacrifice in a new way. Striving to keep Christ before us in the midst of shopping, gift-wrapping and planning will help us keep a right perspective and attitude.
- Allow Room for Mending: Often holidays bring up the reality of broken relationships, heart-wrenching losses, and other hurts that we suddenly cannot run from. Instead of ignoring the heartache you’re experience, take time to process it and allow Jesus to meet you in that place. If there are any broken relationships between you and a loved one, seek restoration if you can. As Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. Are there any fragmented relationships that you need to take steps toward this holiday season? Or do you have losses in your life you need to grieve? Don’t avoid them, but rather lean into them and allow yourself the opportunity work through the pain.
- Do Not Go At it Alone: With everything in the Christian life, we were not created to do things alone. We are called to fight together. Besides, isn’t everything more fun with a friend? Encourage one another to experience Jesus afresh this season. Process the heartache of broken relationships. Collaborate with a group of friends to do a service project or buy gifts for those in need. What if we, as the body of Christ seek to be set apart through loving and serving the disheartened world around? As we shine like bright lights in the darkness, we could be used by our Savior to transform lives this Christmas season.