It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. So croons the voice of Andy Williams over and over again on the radio and in stores everywhere. Most wonderful? In theory, perhaps. Busiest feels closer to the mark. Instead of being something we engage reflectively, Christmas runs us over like a Mack truck more often than not. (What just hit me?) So what might we do differently this year to head off that seemingly inevitable collision? “Up, In, and Out” comes to mind. Really. Try this at home. And out of the home.
Up: Worship shifts our focus. In ways we won’t always recognize, worship ushers into the presence of God and connects us to Him in ways that run far deeper in our being than just a rational head nod to His existence or to a set of doctrinal propositions. That vital connection to God adjusts our perspective such that the immediacy of our circumstances need not control and consume us.
In: the benefits of investing in primary relationships. There is no doubt that relationships shape who we are. And our primary relationships with family and close friends shape us tremendously. Given the significance of these relationships, why not invest in them spiritually. Take time to do an Advent devotional with your family. Start praying with your spouse and children. Make it a priority at least as great as school or sports (and, of course, it should be a greater priority) to intentionally worship together – perhaps by attending some special services that the season affords us. Talk about the wonder of Jesus around the dinner table or while traveling in the car. These things grow everyone and add depth to the relationship.
Out: breaking the tyranny of self and selfishness. It has been said that we are curved in on ourselves as fallen creatures, always navel gazing and absorbed in self and our interests. Some have gone so far as to say that unless the tyranny of the self is broken, we will eventually consume ourselves in an ultimate way (hell?). Nothing tends to break the stranglehold of self more than serving others. Putting the needs of another before our own has a way of making us more thankful, more content, and more satisfied with life. Here are some ideas for the holiday:
Help an elderly neighbor with their Christmas decorations
Take dinner to a shut-in
Invite over for Christmas dinner a person or couple that will be alone otherwise
Estranged from someone? Call them and tell them you love them. Ask their forgiveness. Forgive them. It just may prove to be the best Christmas present ever – to you and to them.