1. Get your Christmas shopping done early. 

 2. Try something new.

 3. Spend more time with your family.

   4. Listen to God while He’s talking.

   5. Be grateful. 

 

      It seems like there’s been a bit of an echo this December. An echo that’s spread rapidly in a short span of time. It’s 3 days until Christmas, and people are just barely getting into the Christmas spirit. So much has happened this year that it’s made it almost impossible for people to be happy right now. Whether it’s the stress of a 9-5 job, or just holiday-travel stress, smiles (in the U.S. especially) have decreased at a rather rapid speed. I was a little more curious about this, so I decided to do some research. One article I read said that 60% of people that shop during Christmas get tired after only 32 minutes of shopping. Another one said that alcohol consumption is a huge factor to stress. People are depending more and more on man-made items to give them peace, and they can’t handle the emptiness (and the hangover) that comes after. So I thought I’d write to encourage some of you feeling down, or like your family is going to drive you nuts. I’m even having a little trouble keeping my spirits up this year, and I’m one of the most cheery people I know. But when that happens, I have to go back to the origin.

      It was one baby, one couple, one star, one night, and one tiny little hut for them to cozy up in. And although you may not think of a straw pillow as being comforting, they seemed to have everything they needed just by being together. It also didn’t help to know that their son was the chosen one. The one everyone had been waiting for to make things right. You see, back then, things were just as stressful as they are now. Money was tight and taxes went up like crazy. People started to question they’re leader and the way he was treating them. So when they heard that someone was coming to become the next king, they were excited. We all know the story of the wise men and the shepherds coming to visit Jesus after he was born. (Matthew 2:11)(Luke 2:16) They brought the most expensive gifts they could find, and followed a star to come and worship Him. I can’t imagine how much faith it must’ve taken for them to take that first step, and if I’m being honest, it would’ve been hard for me, too. But their hope for the future was so high, they decided to take a chance. What if they had not gone, and then heard the story in the news, or ran into the magi the day after. How disappointed they would’ve been that they didn’t follow their hearts. So I can’t help but wonder if people are so stressed out lately because they’re losing their forgetting the meaning of Christmas. Is it possible that we could even be in church going through the motions and not really feeling Christmas?

       I went to Walmart yesterday and the energy was so frantic. I smiled at…I don’t know how many people, and pretty much no one smiled back. No one seemed happy. But there was a mutual understanding that this last-minute shopping “thing” shouldn’t ever happen again. Unfortunately, I was one of those people wishing that I had planned things out better. The line went far out enough for people walking by to be able to crash into you. So I stood there and watched, as people’s faces became a blur and thought, when did Christmas become this? Is this what it’s finally come down to? Commercialism? Overpriced turkey stuffings? While I know that commercialism will always be a big part of the holidays (because let’s face it, people will most likely buy what they see on t.v.), I know this isn’t all there is and I hope this isn’t all we’ll become. Therefore, I have a couple pieces of advice as we go into this next year based on my own experiences that might make next year’s Christmas a little more pleasant:

1. Get your Christmas shopping done early. No one wants to be hauled up in those lines for an hour, moving forward inch by inch. Try to get an idea of what your loved ones want ahead of time, then set a date to go shopping for all the items and DON’T cancel. Now I know some people are harder to shop for than others, but at least if you go early, you have time to return it if the person mentions wanting something else.

 2. Try something new. Don’t get stuck in the rut of doing the same thing every Christmas, and no I don’t mean traditions. Keep the traditions, but maybe instead of cleaning the dust off every ledge and wiping door handles that are just going to get dirty again, you might decide to go ice skating for the first time. I remember the first time I went and it was some of the best fun I’ve ever had. AND, I didn’t fall down one time. When you put yourself out there more and more, life starts to seem worth living again.

 3. Spend more time with your family. Don’t forget the people you’re spending all this time preparing for. Maybe the only gift they want this year is for you to put down what you’re doing and pay attention to them. I have people in my life that I love who are always going, going, GOING, and I would give anything to just sit down and talk with them for a few minutes. People like to know they’re important and in disposable. No one wants to feel like they can be bought.

   4. Listen to God while He’s talking. If you find yourself drifting off to something that could go wrong while the pastor preaching, maybe there’s something to that. I find that my weakest moments in life are when I’m not reading God’s word. Take some time to reread the story of Jesus’ birth. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find some new details that make you see it in a different light. This helps keep your perspective positive, which in turn, will renew your hope.

   5. Be grateful. You’re alive and breathing! That in and of itself is a miracle. The fact that you’re heart is beating and you have a God that loves you is a miracle. And if you’re lucky enough to have a place to live, water to drink, food to eat, and a family to come home to, I’d say you’re well off enough. To be fair, I have moments too where I’m pining over some new piece of technology, how smooth and shiny it looks or how many new features it has than the last upgrade, but I don’t let that consume me. I want those things, but what I need is family. Life is nothing without it. Family doesn’t have to be blood-related either. If you’ve lost your blood family and this is hard time of year for you to be alone, go out and meet new people. Join a small group at church, or talk to people you work with but don’t get to hang out with that often. People are everywhere, and most of them are pretty friendly.

       So this is my advice to you, writing only two days away from Christmas. I hope that wherever you go this year, you feel more like Buddy the elf than the Grinch. May you and your family be safe, together, and blessed. Remember that the greatest gifts really do come in all shapes and sizes, even the king of the world.

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