Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. I absolutely love Christmas, through and through. I’m that annoying kid who plays Christmas music too early—like all year round, too early. In fact, I once was awarded a spoof award in high school for “Most Likely to Play Christmas music in July.” True story! I’m the one who puts her tree up too early and takes it down far, far too late. Hah, at least I come by it honestly. One time, my family left our tree up until June or July, and we only took it down ‘cause we were moving. So, yeah, I’m that girl. I simply love Christmas.
I love the lights. I love the music. I love the joy and the time of giving, the pretty Christmas cards—I’m a sucker for the sterling snow scenes and sparkly night skies! I love searching for the perfect gift to make or give the people I love and then I really love wrapping it up in the most beautiful paper with color-coordinated ribbons and bows. And, of course, glitter! Y’all, ain’t no wrapping complete without gobs of glitter! It’s already hopelessly in my carpet and all over my laundry. I just resign myself to the fact that I will never be truly glitter-free.
Some people are turned off by Christmas, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. I mean, yeah, the shopping and parking and traffic and rush-rush-rushing can get out of hand. Like the live-action rendition of The Grinch so eloquently points out, it’s really easy to lose sight of what Christmas is truly about. We can get caught up in the rush of busy schedules and the whir of sales and online or even in-person shopping before we even realize it. We can be distracted by the buying and forget about the heart of true giving. We can get caught up in the money spent and forsake the time we should prioritize with our families and loved ones. We can even get so excited by Christmas that we drive our roommates and neighbors crazy with music and decorations too early…
Getting everything done on time and right can bring a lot of stress: sending packages, saving up for everything, decorating, wrapping, stamping, the list just goes on and on. And though the snow is gorgeous, if you’re anything like me, you are so ready for the summer weather to return! Inclement weather makes driving even more stressful, not to mention dangerous. Sadly, Christmas also brings some people seasonal depression. It’s easy to be lonely at Christmastime. Some people don’t have a family to celebrate with and others simply miss the ones they once had or can’t get to for some reason. Old wounds open up and if we aren’t careful, new ones can form.
But what is the true spirit of Christmas? Why is it so easy for some people to fall so wholly in love with this season and completely disregard the endless peppermint mocha advertisements and the overpowering cinnamon apple stench in every department store? How can they ignore the thousandth time the radio played “Sleigh Ride”? (Seriously, is there no other carol you can saturate the market with??) How is it that people can overlook the materialistic madhouse stores, traffic jams and honking cars, relentless social obligations, and the Scrooges and Grinches? What makes all of it worth it?
The true spirit of Christmas is joy, peace, love, generosity, and gratitude. These are the things that make all of the hassle and stress worth it. These are the reasons people overlook the materialistic, overzealous side of Christmas, the Christmas we’ve morphed and molded to fit our society. These are the roots of what Christmas truly is. So, now the question becomes how do we cultivate this Christmas joy and peace in our lives? How do we keep the spirit of Christmas at the heart of our lives, both in Christmastime and every other day of the year?
The best way to center our lives on the spirit of Christmas is to be intentional about choosing to live joyfully. I think the joy that Christmas brings far outweighs the possible negatives. You can be a bah humbug if you choose, but you can also be a Tiny Tim if you choose. I struggle not to carry the absolute radiance of the miracle of Christmas with me! It’s buried so deep within my very being. Christ is so woven into the very fabric of who I am that I cannot help but sing His praises and gush with true, genuine joy at the celebration of His birth. No matter how we have bogged Christmas down with to-do lists and must-haves, we can’t transform it down deep at its roots. It’s still Christmas. It’s still the day that God sent His beloved Son to earth to live among us, to save us. And that’s worth celebrating, no matter what.
I think if we learn to look at life and see the things we have to be thankful for, then life will become much more enjoyable. If we search for the things that make us smile and intentionally look for the blessings, then the stresses won’t build up inside us or infect our attitudes. It can be easy to be distracted or dismayed in the Christmas season, but if we choose to see the joy and celebrate, then we can infuse joy into our lives and become healthier, happier people in general. It’s something we can control! Imagine that!
Now, I’m not saying that Christmas is always easy. Believe me, I completely understand the sorrows that this season can bring out in us, the hurts in our pasts and the questions about our futures. But I choose not to let those sorrows control my life and direct my steps. I choose to look past them, difficult as that may be. I acknowledge their place in my past and in my life, but I do not let them reign over my present or determine my future.
We’re called to shine God’s light. That’s what we’re meant to do with our lives. And I believe the key to living a light-filled life is to infuse light into every moment, every day. Learn to recognize the light of Christ in the time He’s given you, every day. Not just at Christmas time. Choose to search out the joy in life instead of succumbing to the stresses and sorrows, tempting as they are at times like these. Live intentionally. On purpose for a purpose. Don’t let life just happen to you. You happen to it!
Find one thing you can be thankful for today. Just one. (I challenge you to stop at only one once you get to thinking about it! It’s hard!) Write it down somewhere. In a journal. On a calendar. Something. Do this every day for a week. Two weeks. A month! Then you can look back and see the light in your life. Visual reminders, written words show us that life isn’t something to dread. They remind us when we are down that things won’t always be this way, that we have so much more to be thankful for than we can imagine, and they reignite the flame of joy in us.
Christmastime is the best time to start something like this! There’s so much to be thankful for and to look forward to. Set aside the excitement that builds as you wait for your sister to open the best gift ever that you so specifically searched out or the warmth that spreads through your chest when you curl up by a fire and crack open a book or the smile that parts your lips as you wrap your hands around that first cup of hot cocoa. Set aside the shopping, the traffic, the full calendar, and the endless obligations. Christmas is so much more!
And it doesn’t have to stop on December 25th either. Make the choice to live out a Christ-filled life every day. Fill every moment with the joy that this season brings. Show kindness. Become a life-long giver. Smile at a stranger. Extend a hand. Say a kind word. Carry Christ within you and shine His light. He will give you peace and joy all year round. And you can give it to others.
Celebrating the joy and the gift of a precious newborn babe in a stable may sound strange to some, but that strange, unusual birth, that miraculous, abundant gift from God is the joy of Christmas. Without His birth, we could not have had His death and without His death, we could not have had His resurrection. Without his resurrection, we would never have had His grace and mercy, His provision, His salvation. It is strange. It’s the mystery of Christmas. And if you start there, you’ll find an abundance of blessings to count and fill your life with. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and you’ll soon find your life overflowing with joy, no matter the pain or storms you face.
So, whether you’re a glitter girl or a ribbon girl, a cocoa guy or an eggnog guy, an all-out-Martha-May-Who decorator or a let’s-just-throw-up-a-wreath-and-be-done decorator, find the joy of Christmas in your life today. Cherish it. Let it carry you through the hard times both now and in the future. Remember that Christ came because He loves you and that alone is enough.
What do you think?
What do you think of Coralie’s guest post? How do you like to show your Christmas spirit during the holiday season?