The last few years have been more than a little rough. People are stressed out and exhausted. There’s a lot of bitterness in the culture, and it’s cutting across many families. But Christmas is a special time to put the focus back on Jesus and create peace in our homes, churches and neighborhoods.
Here are five tips for celebrating a meaningful, tranquil and faith-filled Christmas.
1. Find new ways to engage your faith
Most Christians have traditional ways they exercise their faith during the Christmas season. For example, they may do things like attending a Christmas church service or reading from the nativity story on Christmas morning. If you have traditions like this, by all means, lean into them.
But look for new ways to experience and express your faith this season. That could look like regular morning devotions throughout December or volunteering for a food or coat drive. Whatever you choose, look for new ways to exercise your faith this season and invite others to join you as much as possible.
2. Focus on people this season
For many, December is a flurry of activity with a (sort of) restful conclusion on Christmas day. On top of our regular responsibilities, we add things like shopping, pageants and Christmas parties. As a result, it’s easy to run from one thing to another without really being present for anything—or anyone.
But Christmas is for celebrating that Jesus arrived in Bethlehem out of His great love for the world and His desire to save us (John 3:16). In the incarnation, God showed up for people. He became genuinely present in a way that humankind could never have imagined—and we should, too.
Take time throughout December to pay attention to the people around you: the store clerk, the coffee shop barista, and the parent next to you at the Christmas play. Recognize that they’re why Jesus came, so go out of your way to bless them and pray for them.
3. Practice gratitude
Christmas marketing tells about all the things we lack and all the things they think we need. But Christmas is really about what we’ve already been given and how we’re blessed beyond measure. We may know the meaning of Christmas, but it’s easy for it to get lost in its cultural trappings. Practicing thankfulness is a way to bridge that gap.
Look for ways to exercise gratitude this season. It could be starting a journal where you spend some time thinking about the reasons you’re fortunate. Or you could specifically reach out to people in your life and explicitly tell them why you’re thankful for them—and your gratefulness will impact them, too!
4. Be charitable
There are several ways to practice charity during the holiday. You can volunteer at local charity events and auctions. You can give to charities and non-profits in someone else’s name as a gift.
You can also make it a discipline this season to practice everyday charity with the people around you. Not only does that mean responding to a need when you see it, but it also means being kind to others—even when that feels challenging. Everyone gets a little frazzled during the Christmas season, and we could all use a little charity from one another.
5. Take a holiday from your grievances
In many families, strained relationships can impact the enjoyment and meaning of Christmas for everyone. Sometimes we don’t really remember what started the problem, but now a chasm exists that affects the whole family. This can become even more pronounced at Christmas when someone is excluded from a family gathering, or perhaps if they come but tension lingers in the air.
Forgiveness is a critical part of the Christian faith (Matthew 6:14–15), but it’s not always easy to practice. Sometimes the hurts separating people are complex and run deep. If there is hostility between yourself and someone else this season, and you can forgive them, that’s the ideal. That’s what we’re called to. But maybe you’re still processing a wrongdoing or painful relationship as you move towards forgiveness. You can still choose to give that grudge the month off. Ask the Lord to help you to see inherent value in the people around you this holiday season—even those who have wronged you. And as you spend time together, recognize that Jesus deeply loves them, too.
Maybe when January rolls around, you’ll discover that this animosity can just stay on holiday.
Don’t forget why the nativity matters
It can be challenging to navigate this season and retain its true meaning. But it helps when we learn to focus on some clear principles:
- Jesus (God) entered the world in a manger in Bethlehem.
- Jesus came into the world to save all people because He loves them.
We honor Jesus’ birth when we express gratitude for this gift and when we love others and tell them about His life-changing love. Everything else about the holiday can be meaningful and wonderful, but this is the core. When we focus on it, everything else falls into place.
Visit the Jesus Film Project® YouTube page to watch and share the JESUS film (and other Jesus-centered videos) with others this Christmas.