by Sheldon Habecker
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” We all have sung those famous words or at least hummed them as we scurry around like frantic chickens with our heads cut off trying to make Christmas “perfect.” Some nearly die, trampled underfoot, while trying to secure the perfect gift. Some battle the emotions of a dysfunctional family or separation. Some face the heightened stress that brings out the worst in people. Some are disappointed if all the kids and grandkids don’t come home. Some have such high expectations, no one can meet all of them. Consequently, we feel our Christmas is ruined. So how do we have a happy Christmas? What if I told you, it’s not really about YOU?
If we want to have a happy Christmas, it starts by taking ourselves out of Christmas. (Don't get up and walk away just yet!) The reality is that the fundamental purpose of Christmas is not about what you and I get out of it tangibly. While Christ came to earth for humanity, we are not the focus of Christmas. Before you utter those words, “What I want for Christmas is...” remember, it’s not about you.
It’s not about what you are getting. The commercialization of Christmas makes us feel good if we get the gifts we want. One of my favorite gifts was wrapped up in our Christmas tree box. I feverishly tore the paper off and as a 12-year-old boy held up my first deer rifle, which I still use to this day. But that didn’t make Christmas.
On the flip side, it’s also not about what you are giving. People love to give the best gifts. Because we don’t want to be outdone, we often spend money we don’t have to buy gifts someone may not even want. This is often done to supposedly embody the true meaning of Christmas. Really? As my girls grow, I understand the mantra of wanting to see the smiles and joy of our children as they open their presents; however, that does not make a truly happy Christmas.
It’s not about who is or isn’t there, either. In some families, if everyone doesn’t take every single iota of effort to completely rearrange their schedule to be somewhere, the world may as well spin out of orbit into the deep blue yonder. I would propose to you that Christmas is what you make it with the people that ARE there. Find a family that is less fortunate. Find someone who has lost a spouse or has no family nearby. Find someone and celebrate Christmas.
So how do we have a happy Christmas?
First, we need to REFOCUS on the reason for Christmas. Lest we have forgotten in our hustle and bustle of the season, Jesus is the reason for the season! When you feel like pulling your hair out this Christmas season, stop for two milliseconds and remember that fact. It will help us to come back to the center of why we celebrate. Maybe it will even change some things that we do and how we celebrate Christmas.
Second, REALIZE afresh and anew what was given. Our Heavenly Father wrapped up the greatest gift that was ever given to humanity in the form of a baby named Jesus. With that first gift, God initiated the greatest gift we could ever receive, full and free salvation to whosoever will believe on Him. You will never give the greatest gift, because it has already been given. You just have to receive it.
Also, REACT in the spirit of Christ. As you rush about this Christmas season, ask yourself, “Do all my actions, reactions, responses, and attitudes align with the spirit of Christ?” Fighting over a silly toy on Black Friday certainly does not . The family feuds and arguments do not. Ask yourself the following questions: What would Jesus do? How would Jesus act? What would Jesus say? Christ sacrificed His own privileges, all the splendors of Heaven, for you. The least we can do is react in the spirit of Christ. I’m sure it will put much more “happy” in your Christmas.
Lastly, REJOICE in the gift that was given. If there is one word that embodies Christmas, it is "rejoice!" Mary and Joseph rejoiced through their struggles. The angels rejoiced to tell the good news to humble shepherds. The shepherds rejoiced as they went out and told what they had seen. The wise men rejoiced as they brought gifts and worshipped the young child. Everybody on the first Christmas seemed to center their attention on rejoicing over the divine gift that was given. We ought to do the same thing: it is the key to making our Christmas joyful.
So, before you get swept up in the worldly expectation of what you need to make Christmas this year, remember a few things. It’s not about you; it’s about Him. It’s not about what you get; it’s about what we have received from Christ. It’s not about what you give; it’s about what He has given. It’s not about who is there; it matters that He is there. I pray you have a most Merry Christmas as you celebrate the real reason for the season: Jesus Christ!
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Dr. Timothy Cooley, Sr.
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