This Christmas, Focus on the Right Things

While in every Christmas season we focus on the next must-have toy or accessory of the year, that’s continuously featured on network morning news shows or paid social media promotions, this year’s big holiday will be filled with anxiety about supply chains, prices, and if we’ll be able to get the things we want on time. As a Christian, I am fully aware that I shouldn’t be holding on so tight to my desires. I’ve made a habit out of dropping things my family has outgrown into the drive-up collection bins at Goodwill, and telling myself “I shall not want material things”. But the thing is, the minute I finish donating, I resume this habit of buying stuff I don’t really need.

What really helps me and gets my head cleared again is to focus on the first part of that line from Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Then, I feel like I’ve arrived home after a long trip or a visit to a far-away place.

Yes, it’s true. Sometimes I need to remind myself with the help of God that I already have all I need. And it goes with me wherever I go.

It reminds me of what Wendell Berry described as the “joy of sales resistance”. Every time I close an online shopping tab, I actively remind myself to exit without buying the things I’ve placed in my cart. When the holiday season starts, the resistance I’m talking about takes more effort. But the substance of our true hope and strength endures and helps us get through.

In order to achieve that level of hope, it takes practice. Sometimes, I forget to let go of all manner of things. I get sentimental about my old baby shoes, or for those jeans I hope to wear again someday.

I used to ask myself: How can I free myself from the things that possess me and instead strengthen my ability to hope?

First, we should start off by practicing contentedness and thankfulness. If we constantly remind ourselves that everything we have belongs to God, then we need to make an honest inventory of what we’ve already been given. And if we belong to God, then we don’t need anything more to find our significance and security.

Learning how to let go of things isn’t easy. It’s even harder to learn that the phrase “I shall not want” sometimes applies to letting go of people we love.

I pray for my family and friends when I miss them deeply. But with the help of this phrase, I’m learning to celebrate the ways the people I love are out there, living the lives that God wants them to live, right where He wants them to be.

When I open up my heart to His big plans, I suddenly am calmer and at peace with myself, because I gain a fuller picture of the ways God is working in this world. Letting go of everything He doesn’t want for me is what makes this possible.

And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. May it be in marriage, friendship, or family life, love is only built on a springboard trajectory. When you love, you receive, you let go, you launch and you send out. The biggest gift that children receive from their parents, though imperfect, comes from the primal courage to love and to let go, with never-ending trust that God will come and fill any empty space with His presence.

When Jesus lifted up into the clouds after His time on earth, His friends were left confused by His departure. But in His ascension, Jesus said: “Do not hold on to me” (John 20:17). Although Jesus had to leave, He only did so to make room for an even closer companion. He sent the Holy Spirit to be not just by our side, but within us. We couldn’t possibly ask for a better gift.

So, remind yourself that change is constant. Babies grow. Favorite sweaters are no longer wearable. Even skies wear out. This is why we should constantly remember not to place our hope in anything that will eventually turn to dust or end up in Goodwill donation bins. We are capable of letting go, and each time we do, we make room for God who remains the same. We make room for God who offers us more of Himself.

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Who took Christ out of Christmas?

Have you ever asked yourself why a holiday that is supposed to put the focus on faith is more often filled with doubt?

Why does this pure celebration of peace on earth have us filled with so much anxiety and fear? Why do we worry that Christmas is being canceled? Why can’t we find Christmas?

You might even end up wondering if all of this is really worth it. If this is how God meant for us to celebrate the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.

This is what we should’ve done? Spend it all until there’s nothing left? Yes, it’s true, the Bible didn’t specify how we should act when it comes to holiday spending, but it has lots to say about being faithful with our finances.

Give to Christ first

When Jesus was born, three wise men came to offer gifts to the newborn baby, the Savior of the world. While today it is impossible to give a gift to Jesus, we can gift the causes that are closer to His heart.

Jesus said, “as you did to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). So, when you start making your gift list, don’t forget to give to Christ first.

Be an evangelistic giver

Never stop wondering how you can adjust your Christmas list to use it for God’s glory. And by that, I don’t mean that you ought to give everyone a Bible or a Christian book. What I mean is to find ways to leverage your giving for God’s Kingdom.

If you don’t know where to start, just try to remember all those people in your life who don’t know Jesus or have wandered far away from God. Then, try to think of ways on how you could build relationships with them over the holidays. Remember, all people are good, we just need to love them a little harder sometimes. Something as simple and inexpensive as a batch of cookies is one of the most evangelistic gifts, and it gives you a chance to spend some time with that neighbor you don’t know so well but would like to know better.

Whatever you might decide to do, you should always make an effort to give gifts that are helping people to return to Jesus Christ, the greatest gift this world has ever received.

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