The holidays are a joyous occasion for many, but for some it can be a difficult time of year. During this time most of us are probably thinking about buying presents and what to prepare for the big family get together, but there are others who may be reflecting on lost loved ones or the family they do not have. The holidays can also be difficult because of having to spend time with people you do not normally see. Everyone has a group of friends they like to be around, but during the holidays we sometimes have to spend time with people who are unlike us. Sometimes it can be difficult conversing with someone who has different views, or is not close to our age. I say all this because being a Christian is not something we put off and put on. We are a Christian at all times. We are a Christian at home and at work, and we are a Christian during the holidays. Here are a few things we should pay attention to throughout the holiday season.
Be aware that the holidays are difficult for some people. If you know of a family member, church member, friend, or neighbor who has lost a significant person in their life, then understand that holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years can be a trying time. Even if it has been years since their loss the memories may still be fresh. Often there is not much we can do for these individuals, except be aware of the situation and be sensitive to their needs.
Be present. When we are in a crowded room with lots of people it is easy to become detached. It is easy to retreat to the television or focus on our iPhone. Try and avoid doing this throughout the holidays. Be present with people. This is something Jesus did throughout his ministry. He paid attention to people, especially people whom no one else was paying attention to. Often older family members are ignored. Sometimes a new family member, someone who has recently married into the family, gets lost in the crowd. Seek these people out and engage them in conversation. You never know what you might learn. You never know what kind of impact you may have on them.
Be aware that not everyone has a family to be with during the holidays. I know the holidays are busy and hectic for most people, but if we can include someone else in them, this is a tremendous blessing. There are people all around us who do not have a place to spend the holidays. Invite these people to join your family. Some of my fondest memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas were ones we spent with international students from Japan. It was such a delight to invite them into our home and see them experience the joy of Thanksgiving and Christmas. If we hadn’t extended this invitation, then they would have spent the holidays in a dorm room by themselves. Pay attention to people in your congregation. There are people who may not have any family, or may not have family in the area. Invite them to dinner. What a blessing it would be if you could invite someone like this into your home and show them the hospitality that Jesus often showed when he invited people to join him around the table.
Be a giver. There are people and families all around us who witness the abundance of Christmas, but who are not able to afford gifts for their family. Often these individuals will not speak up and ask for help. If you know someone like this, make a difference in their lives by giving them the Christmas they could never have. Allow them to experience the joy your family experiences on Christmas morning.
Slow Down and Enjoy the Blessings God Has Given. If we are not careful, Christmas can easily become a rat race. It can be stressful and unpleasant for several different reasons. Some families will go into debt during the holiday season because they believe the joy of Christmas is tied to material possessions. Others will not enjoy the holidays because they are trying to appease every family member and friend they have. They rush from one Christmas party to another, without ever taking the time to stop and enjoy the people around them. Christmas should not be a burden. Times like Thanksgiving and Christmas are a great opportunity to stop and reflect on all that God has done. We have more than most people in the world, and yet we often feel like we don’t have enough. Be content with what you have. Stop and recognize that God has richly blessed you. Enjoy the blessings of God this Christmas, instead of looking for some other fulfillment that will never satisfy.
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