Written By Janel Breitenstein, USA
Last year, my kids and I snuggled up to read a Christmas story. It’s the story of a boy whose parents are determined to throw him an epic birthday party—replete with guests, food, decor and party favors. But in the midst of all the hoopla (the plates to be refilled, the pre-party housecleaning, the crowd control), the boy is forgotten.
Perhaps you see what I’m leading up to here. Sometimes at Christmas, it’s a little too easy to forget the birthday boy, and that all the glitter and hype of Christmas has a purpose beyond the secular.
The Bible records extravagant feasts in the Old Testament. Jesus’ big debut was making wine from water for a wedding. God is the pinnacle of our joy, of our feasts and revelry. And I think God uses our senses—the whiff of evergreen; the clam dip (it’s my family’s thing); the twinkle lights; Jack Frost nipping at your nose—to help us better appreciate what we can’t see.
Still, with all the Christmas craziness, sometimes I’m not actually drawn into deeper worship and appreciation of God. Sometimes, I get so hyped up with creating the magic, the party, that I miss the Birthday Boy.
So I’m compiling some ideas for all of us, to not only taste gingerbread or cider, but to savor Jesus this Christmas.
1. Do less
With an already-packed schedule, Christmas can feel a bit like “more bricks, less straw”. How about cut out a few of the “have-to’s” that really aren’t (photo Christmas cards rather than hand-signed, for example)—and allow a little more margin for a meditative state of mind rather than one sprinting to keep up? Think Martha versus Mary here (Luke 10:38-42).
Pray that God will open your eyes to what entangles and distracts your heart from really soaking in the Christmas message this year—and for the courage to cut it loose.
While I was in Africa, the disappointment and sadness of being away from my home country and its festivities sometimes meant I kept Christmas at arm’s length. But I also know that when I’m home for Christmas, my schedule and all the trimmings of the season tend to clutter my mind and my heart from the one person who matters.
You’ve heard the old warning: If the Devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. So, consider a question like this one: God, I know how everyone else thinks I should spend my day today. How do you want me to spend it, to be faithful to you and love well?
2. Carve out time to worship
In the book Sacred Pathways, author Gary Thomas writes of the various ways we worship as individuals: through nature, restoring justice, through our intellect, etc.
Carve out time for the ways you worship, like a walk through the snow, prayer time in the quiet of the Christmas tree lights, or caring for a lonely neighbor.
Personally, I’ve played Lauren Daigle’s “Light of the World” while I jog, or composed some Christmas music on the piano. Last year, after opening presents with family on Christmas day, I took a walk in order to simply have a conversation with God. Bringing Christmas into your heart can take on all forms for each of us!
3. Make use of online tools.
Look online for tools that foster the ways you most deeply worship. There are advent devotionals, like this one from Desiring God. If you’re moved by music, spend a few dollars and a few extra minutes looking for songs that will move you to praise and worship God wholeheartedly.
You might also find methods to hijack your traditions: like an advent calendar that, alongside all that sugar, leads you closer to Jesus, or ornaments that clearly remind you of Jesus whenever you look at your tree.
4. Meditate on God’s word.
Ask God to point out one name of Jesus (“Prince of Peace”) or verse (“I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said”) or character from the Christmas story that sticks out. Meditate on that as you go through the season, and listen as God fleshes out its meaning.
If you’re having a hard time getting in the groove, begin with reflecting on His kindness to you last year. My family posted a large poster board in our house to make a record of as much of His goodness as we can remember in 2017. It’s nearly full!
In a painful or frustrated Christmas, thankfulness can turn our eyes from ourselves to God’s constant graces—even something as simple as the breath we’re drawing into our lungs.
5. Add a slice of service.
Choose one area in which to give yourself away this Christmas—one that pushes you beyond your comfort zone, pressing you into worship that gives uncomfortably, extravagantly, and/or inconveniently in your expression of love for God.
For example, my family and I have rung bells for the Salvation Army, purchased gifts for Operation Christmas Child, given out “Christmas bundles” to impoverished local families, and manned the children’s craft table for a holiday celebration welcoming local refugees.
And if you’re not sure how to make more of Jesus this Christmas—ask Him. We’re made for worship, and we can see clearly in Scripture that it is His will for us to worship Him well this Christmas. This season, may He open your mouth to taste the greatest Gift.