“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”—Romans 14:17(NIV).
If you ask any American child what he likes about Christmas, you will probably hear the same answer. In their excitement, most would probably shout the word “presents” or “toys.”
Ask any harried parent what he likes about Christmas and you’d get a different answer. You would get even another viewpoint if you asked retailers.
The holiday season is upon us. Although the advertising blitz has been going on for a few months—or at least it feels that way—I find it hard to get excited. Am I alone? Where has the joy gone?
A Season Filled with Joy
If you asked me to describe a season filled with joy, I would include the following: the company of loved ones, good food, fun, and relaxation, and maybe a few inches of snow. Although my wish list seems simple, for many, this ideal could not be farther from reality.
Too often, the holidays seem to exhaust us because we feel trapped by the shopping, spending, and frenzied preparations when we should be full of joy. A recent national survey revealed that 70 percent of Americans long for less emphasis on gift giving and spending.
In his 1998 book titled “Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas,” Bill McKibben offers a simple proposal during the holiday madness. He suggests spending only $100 (total) on Christmas, and instead of shopping, we should spend time with the people we love.
The Grinch that Stole Christmas
Critics of McKibben have called him the grinch that stole Christmas. Responding to the criticism, McKibben said, “I’ve been called my share of names, but the only one that ever really stung was ‘grinch.’”
It was with apprehension that McKibben picked up his daughter’s well-worn copy of the Dr. Seuss classic and reread the popular tale. After rereading the story, McKibben found new understanding.
In Seuss’s book, the Grinch hears singing on Christmas morning and realizes he has not stopped Christmas at all:
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
Wouldn’t it Be Nice?
Wouldn’t it be nice if more people realized that Christmas joy doesn’t come from a store and is maybe…perhaps…a little bit more?
In a society, where material goods are bountiful, but quality time is not, I think McKibben has a great idea. If we start putting the ‘peace of mind’ back into Christmas, with a spending limit, we will find, just like the Grinch, that the true meaning of Christmas was right under our noses the whole time.
With the current state of our economy, job losses, and the pandemic, maybe it’s time we re-evaluated our priorities. While we want Christmas to be meaningful this year, maybe it’s time to rethink Christmas and restore the magic in our hearts.
Restoring the Christmas Magic
As you make your holiday shopping list, here are some stress-free, simple ideas to make this year more joyful.
- Be present. In our busyness, we forget to just be. Be present for your family. Be silent and seek the “presence” of God. Listen for His still, small voice as you read scripture and pray. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
- Donate food. With unemployment so high, more and more are seeking assistance during this time. Some are more concerned with feeding their families than worrying about presents under the tree. Fill a grocery bag, or more than one, and donate your offering to a local food pantry or a family in need. “Do not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16).
- Make memories. More than anything, I love the smells of Christmas. Is there anything better than walking into a house with fresh-baked cookies in the air? Well, maybe eating them. Working together in the kitchen to mix and bake cookies and other treats draws your family closer. And, oh what memories to savor. “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 10:19).
- Be the light. Twinkling Christmas lights are beautiful, creating a wonderful symbol of Christ’s birth, and the light He brought into a world of darkness. What we need now, more than ever, is for us to be the light of Christ in a world so in need of Him. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
- Seek Peace. With the political and social turmoil in our world today, what this world needs more than gaily wrapped gifts, is peace. Peace on earth begins with each of us. “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).
Maybe, just maybe, we can put the joy back in Christmas.