Not feeling the Christmas spirit? Me either.
This December I have decided not to bake Christmas cookies. In the past I'd spend long hours at night mixing, baking, and scraping cookies off pans to be stored in the freezer until Christmas Eve. Then they were placed on Christmas plates and handed out to neighbors.
Baking has never been my thing but this year I'm not feeling the Christmas spirit.
I have some friends and family who are seriously ill. There's a war going on in Ukraine. There are lots of creepy criminals (and politicians) doing terrible things out there. Inflation. I am starting to feel some pangs of empty nesters (though not all the way). My one daughter let me know she might not get home because of the impending snowstorm. I was not happy. What is the purpose of Christmas, anyways? I knew the answer but I still sulked.
Then last night I had a few thoughts.
Christmas is not my birthday.
Jesus came down to earth to die for our sins.
Joy is a gift from God but despair comes from Satan.
I immediately made the choice for joy (It also gave me the idea for this blog). I was not going to swill in my feelings of woe but instead share what little joy I have.
joy begins inside our bodies
The health gurus drive me nuts but I think they're correct when they tell us to make sure we're exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep. You have to take reasonable care of yourself before you can take care of others. It doesn't mean you have to run a marathon every day. It means getting your body moving, even if you're in a wheelchair. It doesn't mean you can't eat a cookie or two. It does mean making sure you get your fruits, vegetables, and protein in, too. It doesn't mean you can't attend a holiday party, it just means making sure you still get sleep (and it's so much better if you don't have a hangover).
Joy doesn't come in a box but giving is important
If Christmas celebrates Christ's birthday, what do you think he wants? An Xbox? A snuggly robe? A gift card to a department store? Lets face it, celebrating Christ's birthday for Christ will not drive up retail sales.
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).
This doesn't let husbands get off the hook from buying their wives a gift. In fact, if you love your wife, you're going to take some time and effort to search for something that will make your spouse smile (not wait until store closing on Christmas Eve to pick out a drill). Vice versa, wives. And, when you open your gifts, smile and be gracious. You might have to practice that one while hiding in your closet. If it's the wrong size perhaps you could say, "Oh, honey, this is beautiful. Maybe I can exchange it for a smaller size."
Giving outside of your immediate family brings joy, too. Food pantries, toys for kids, Christmas cards, rides to doctors' offices. (Cookies to your neighbors???) I think you get the point.
Go to church
For my birthday I want people to celebrate with me at my house, a restaurant, or someone else's home. Don't you think Jesus wants people to celebrate his birthday by spending time with him and going to his house (which is conveniently placed in almost every city and town in the world)?
Don't expect the people in the pews to be angels. Don't expect the New York Symphony Choir. Don't expect a brilliant sermon.
You have to get onto the equipment for it to work. A treadmill can run without anyone on it but you're not going to burn any calories or increase your heart rate. The same goes for church. It requires your active participation through singing and praying the prayers.
Don't expect to get anything out of it.
I have heard over and over that people get nothing out of church. But it's not a grocery store where you shop and bring home packages of food. It's actually more like a fitness center. You have to get onto the equipment for it to work. A treadmill can run without anyone on it but you're not going to burn any calories or increase your heart rate. The same goes for church. It requires your active participation through singing and praying the prayers. When the minister is about to give the sermon, pray to the Holy Spirit that you hear the message God needs you to hear. And, like the fitness center, you need to go at least weekly before others begin to see results.
Last month on my Talking to Myself podcast I interviewed publisher, Arielle Haughee from Orange Blossom Publishing. She was struggling last Christmas and came up with these four questions that she asks herself every day: I am grateful for... Something that made me smile... I am proud of... Something I look forward to... What a great way to end the day. Thank you, Arielle.
This is one we need to practice every day, sometimes every moment. Jesus told Peter we needed to forgive people seventy times seven. Religious scholars say that means we must forgive all the time. This is probably the hardest thing humans must do. When I need to forgive, the first thing I say is, "Jesus this person (fill in the blanks) and it hurt me. I give you this pain and this person. Help me to forgive."
Sometimes it works immediately, other times I have to say it over and over again. Occasionally those nasty thoughts about the person pop up into my mind. There are some situations that require an outside therapist to help you, especially when the person's behaviors damaged you or your loved one.
During the holidays many people are mad at God. I just learned of someone who lost a child. This person is angry. I know another person who hates his job and he blames God. If you are not blaspheming God, it is okay to let him know you're mad. That is all part of the relationship. God doesn't want us to be a bunch of robots. He wants us to tell him how we're feeling and then open ourselves up for his healing.
If you have an extra hour, please listen to Darius Follows a Star. A young shepherd reluctantly follows a star with his sickly brother.
Writing Christmas stories and sharing them with family and friends is my DYI Christmas gift. It does deal with topics of death so may not be appropriate for small children.
Thank you for reading. These are just a few suggestions. I hope they help you to bring joy to others and to yourself. If you have any easy and tasty Christmas Cookie recipes, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I might just make a few batches to share with our neighbors.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!