Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's when we let the stress and guilt go that we find the real joy

In all the hustle and bustle, we forget what Christmas is really about. As I was shopping for Christmas cards for our children, it was hard to find a Christmas card that was about Christmas. I was shocked. Well, not really. I think many just make Christmas out to be any old holiday. A reason to get together and well, have a party.

Christmas should be a season of joy. It should be celebrated with a humble heart and really, it should be alive in our hearts daily. After all, we are celebrating the One who came. The precious birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Without Christ, there is no Christmas.

This year I have shopped for cake ingredients. Yes, this year we are making a birthday cake for the King of kings. December holds my 45th birthday and as I am eager to celebrate my birthday, why should His birthday be any less? If anything it should be much grandeur and more special.

Now, gift giving is a wonderful time. To give of our heart to another just makes the heart glow with love. But, gift giving can also be strenuous and exhausting. People feel guilty when they can't spend a large amount. It's like people have an expectation and when they open the gift they want to see them wide eyed and in awe. Not everyone can purchase a gift for every family member and every friend. No one should be made to feel badly because they cannot spend large amounts this time of year.

But lets think about why we feel guilty? You have those who love to brag about how much shopping and wrapping they are doing. We love to add up our amounts from our receipts and we then say, "Wow, this is a great Christmas." Really? Because you were able to spend a lot? I have heard people for years say, "Well, we haven't been able to have a good Christmas for a while, but this year, it's going to be great." I wonder how Jesus feels about all that commercialism. Somewhere along the way we lose focus on Him and we settle it on which home is decorated the fanciest and which tree is more original. We buy the bows and paper and fill our fridge with mounds of food. Where is our time spent with Jesus? Where is our focus?

We take a whole month, sometimes people begin much earlier to ready for the big day. Within a few minutes the presents are all unwrapped, the living room is scattered with trash and after a week or two gifts are forgotten and presents are returned. The tree goes back in the box and the lights come down. It's kind of sad really. I mean, when we really think about it, shouldn't Christmas be celebrated every day?

Why not slow down? Why not live each day with the same joy as we have when we open up that gift from under the tree? Look at us. We make out lists for all we want. What about what Jesus wants? We tend to want everything on our list, but when Jesus wants something, we tend to say, "Oh, I am so busy, isn't there someone else?" This is a time of year where we can celebrate His birth by loving those unloved, those unaccepted, those who are hurting, those in need, those who have no where to go and those who feel so alone.  We can spread the love of Christ by simply loving those who need Him so.

Families get all excited and then let down when they don't get to see all of their family. We have Christmas parties without Christ. People look at their charge cards in horror when that January bill comes rolling in. So, my thoughts are why? Why do it all and be stressed out? Maybe we could try totally giving in secret. I think there is real joy behind that kind of giving. Instead of asking each other, "What did you get for Christmas?", what if we asked instead, "How did you celebrate the birth of Jesus this year?" 

Those gifts that come from your heart will mean more than anything you could ever purchase. It's hard to purchase a gift for someone you really don't know at all. So, what do we do? We throw gift cards at everyone. Where is the meaning? We lose the joy of giving when we must make out a list of all the names. You know how it is. Have you ever said, "Ugh, we are having a Christmas party and I picked Patty's name. I really don't like her, so what am I going to get her?" Somewhere we lose it all. I am not so sure if Christmas is about Christ or it's about us as we make ourselves out to look good purchasing gifts for everyone we know. This is where the guilt comes in for those families that feel as if they must compete.

I can be honest and share with you the best Christmas's we have been blessed to celebrate were those where my husband was laid off from work. There weren't gifts under the tree for everyone. You learn to be creative and you have time to ponder it all. It was a time we totally focused on our blessings and saw the great gifts before us that came from Christ our Savior as He provided for us and blessed us like never before. It's those humble moments in my life where I remove the focus from me and totally see Him for ALL He is and Christmas isn't about what I want or what I can give. It's ALL about Him.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas. It's my favorite time of year. But friends, we must learn to let go of the guilt and stress. This is a difficult time for most people in our country today. I think when we can all learn that it's not about gifts that we can purchase or how many we receive, that's when we will realize the real meaning of Christmas and it's then that it will be more special than ever. It's not what we can give. It's all about what He gave.
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