Charlie Brown got it: we have commercialized Christmas to the point of turning it into something almost unrecognizable when compared to the original silent night in a barn. How are children of God caught up in this glitz and glam culture called to look past the special sales, endless noise, and festive chaos to spread a blanket of holy quiet over our hearts and celebrate in an authentic way? Could we return to a reality where all is calm, all is bright? Here are some ideas and places to start.
Regardless of the constant buzz on the other side of your door, you control your home environment. Begin a crazy detox: turn off the TV, the music, the games, the chatter. Light a candle, letting it remind you of the hope Jesus came to be. If there is anything in your home that is causing unnecessary stress, get rid of it if possible. Pare down the calendar; it’s amazing how many memories can be made in the white space when you search for it. Stop comparing. You don’t have to measure up to anyone else’s standard. If you know that you are honoring God with how you spend your time and money, quit worrying about what others might think and just enjoy where you are.
Be present. It’s okay to step away from the phone (and the email and the computer and whatever else pulls you away from right here, right now). Unplug as much as you possibly can. My favorite holiday tradition is Christmas Eve: we turn off all of the lights except for the tree, and we use candles to illuminate the rest of the house. That break in our normalcy offers a refocusing when we need it most, forcing us to slow down and soak in the moment. Baking a birthday cake for Jesus is another fun way of remembering why we celebrate at all.
Cultivate a spirit of selflessness. Go serve at a shelter. Order a gift from a catalog that provides basic food and necessities to needy families (like Compassion International or World Vision). Plan an afternoon of random acts of kindness. Adopt a family or elderly person to spoil for Christmas. If asked what you would like as a present, consider redirecting family or friends to donate a gift in your name to a worthy cause. Go through your house and purge all of the extra stuff; this is the best time of year to pass on what you don’t need to others who do.
Find simple ways of working bits of the Christmas story into the everyday. Consider telling it once or twice a week, each time from a different character’s point of view. What were the angels thinking as they sang in the skies over Bethlehem? How did the wise men feel about making such a long journey? Did Jesus sleep through the night? Find commonalities with each character and meditate on what God was purposing to do through them. Also, if there is any unconfessed sin or lingering business you need to take care of with Jesus, now is a great time.
Listen, I’m not advocating temporarily becoming Amish. I’m just saying that to celebrate the occasion of a glorious God silently making His way into the world in humility and meekness, maybe we could do with a little less bombastic noise noise noise noise! and a little more thought.