Seven Steps to a Spiritually Healthy Christmas
by Marion Stroud
Why should two or three ‘special’ days throw us into a frenzy of activity for four or five weeks? Year after year I start the holiday season determined to resist the hype and move quietly through Advent, keeping my focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of our celebrations. And year after year I get caught up in the rush and bustle to a greater or lesser degree, and often feel as if I’m in danger of losing sight of the Prince of Peace altogether.
It’s easy to think of ways to keep ourselves physically fit during this hectic time, but how can we stress proof ourselves emotionally and spiritually? This is even more important if you are the only member of your immediate family who wants to keep Jesus at the centre, and the real ‘reason for the season.’ Here are seven ways to help you prepare emotionally and spiritually for Christmas.
Begin with Thanksgiving:
There’s more to Thanksgiving than one day of turkey and reflection on God’s goodness to us in the year that is past. Counting our blessings on a daily basis is actually good for our health. So buy a notebook, put 5 minutes aside each day until the New Year, and note down three things for which you are grateful. If you find it difficult to start, look at Psalm 34.
‘Perfect Christmases’ don’t exist outside the pages of glossy magazines. Don’t overload your expectations of people or the event itself, wearing yourself into a frazzled heap, by trying to do the impossible. Make a date with two or three friends, and share your creative solutions for different stages of family life.
This might range from tricky areas like what to do about church attendance if you are entertaining family members for whom Christmas is seen as an excuse to eat and drink too much, and nothing more, to present buying. If you have a large number of adults in your family, who lack nothing, why not try the Secret Santa solution? This means that each family member is allocated just one person to buy one gift for, and you all agree that spending is restricted to a certain amount. Hang on to your sense of humor and commit to pray for one another.
Use Advent to prepare your heart:
Write promises from the Bible onto small cards, and keep them in your purse or pocket. Take these spiritual vitamins three times a day! Ask God for a verse or just part of a verse, that you can pray for each one who will be part of your celebrations this year. Drenching your home, your visitors and your family in prayer is much more effective than worrying.
Decorate with discretion:
Many families leave it to Mom to mastermind the decorations. So if you’d love to have a crèche to act as a spiritual focal point, but would be faced with objections, try grouping Christmas cards by theme. Jenny puts all the cards featuring the Nativity onto the wall opposite to her front door, in the shape of a stained glass window.
Candles are both traditional and can have a spiritual significance. Hilary found a plaque in a little country church this summer under a bank of flickering candles. “A lighted candle is a symbol of a life consumed by prayer,” it read. “Is this true of your life?” So this Christmas she intends to crowd her windowsills with candles, as a gentle reminder to pray, even in the midst of her hectic activity.
Music sets the mood:
There may be objections if you play worship music on the family music system, even if it is Christmas, but with the advent of MP3 players and other gadgets, you can have your own ‘praise party’ any time you please.
Focus on the positive:
Jesus is present in your home at Christmas, because He is present in you. Ask Him to show you how you can touch others, especially your family, with His love. It’s easy to react against the excesses of Christmas, and become like Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ with his “Bah Humbug!” Remember that Jesus loved people and parties, and welcomed the most unlikely people to feast with Him.
Remember the reason for the Season:
On those days when it all seems overwhelming, and you wish that you could escape to a desert island, remember this: ‘No Christmas—no Easter. No Easter— no resurrection. No resurrection—no hope.’ And be thankful.
A Christmas Prayer
Dear Lord, you know I long to celebrate your birth in ways that bring you joy.
And yet it is so very hard when others in my family see nothing in this time of year
but an excuse for far too much of everything, except the one to whom the festival belongs.
Please help me Lord.
If I can’t be at church to celebrate within the family of faith,
show me a way to bring to you my worship,
even if the most that I can do is simply to stretch out my hands and cling to yours,
with loving reverence amidst the hurly burly of our December days.
Sometimes, dear Lord, it seems our present-giving customs are threatening to spoil this time of year.
Please help me to spend our limited resources wisely, thankfully,
thoughtfully – praising you for what I have and ways in which I can bring others joy instead of mourning the things that I may lack.
The final gift the magi laid low at your feet, dear Lord,
was myrrh, which spoke of suffering and pain that lay ahead.
My little sadnesses are nothing compared with that.
So when I feel alone, misunderstood, or simply tired,
help me remember that I can offer all my days
and bring you joy if they’re gift wrapped in jewel bright colors of your Spirit’s fruit and labelled
“All for Jesus” with love, from me.
Marion Stroud is a multi-published author of non-fiction, many of whose books have been translated into 14 different languages. Her most recent publication is a book of prayers and meditations, which is intended to cover every season of a woman’s life, and is entitled “It’s just You and Me Lord.” She lives in Bedford, England with her husband who is a retired dentist. She has 5 adult children and 16 grandchildren at the last count! Website: www.marionstroud.com