Searching for the meaning of Christmas? Sometimes it’s hard to find in the barrage of holiday ads and the steady dose of Christmas consumerism. It’s ironic that an event that began with such humble and simple beginnings: a stable, a manger, a mother and father, new life—has evolved into a full-blown frenzy of shopping bags, long lines, impatient drivers and cut-throat toy hunting. Of course, shopping is not inherently evil. We will all be purchasing gifts for family and friends, but if that’s all we do, we may miss Christmas entirely.
I don’t think that we should skip Christmas or rail against all of the distractions per se, but I do believe we have to begin reinventing Christmas for ourselves. By reinventing, I mean that we should find ways to restore the truest meaning of Christmas and let the real meaning—the coming of Christ into the world—emerge. It can be difficult, but I believe it’s possible to restore the powerful mystery and meaning of Christmas amidst the chaos of mass marketing. Here are some simple suggestions for personally reinventing Christmas:
Get involved in some type of community service.
Sometime during December, maybe even Christmas day, donate your time at the local homeless shelter or food pantry. This may be the greatest gift you give yourself for Christmas. Remembering the coming of Christ into the world by serving and loving others in real and tangible ways is really where the magic of Christmas is delivered.
Consider making your most prized gift to your local church.
The heart of Christ beats within the local church, His body. If you truly desire to celebrate Christmas, change your primary focus from Christmas lists to sacrificial giving, knowing that you will not receive a gift in return (except for the tax break).
Celebrate Christmas all December by using an Advent Calendar.
Read and focus on a passage from the Bible that points to the coming of Christ. The purpose of the advent calendar is to help you stay focused on the coming of Christ into the world. One way of reinventing Christmas is to remember the true meaning from a different angle every day; instead of counting the days left for Christmas shopping, count the days left until the birth of Christ.
Create something that will remind you of the meaning of Christmas.
You don’t have to be creative to create. Spend some time drawing, painting or writing about the first Christmas. Make it personal and vulnerable. Use it as a time of worship, you could play Christmas music in the background, pray during the drawing or just stay in silence—reflecting on the fact that a baby was born, so that it could die and then live again. Nothing like it has ever happened in history—God became man, for the sake of the world. When you’re finished you could share your work with others or just keep it to yourself.
Spend a day in prayer and even fasting.
Take one day and go somewhere quiet, maybe your church, somewhere outdoors or even a monastery and do nothing but pray, focusing on the coming of Christ. I’ll admit, this takes discipline, but the time spent would be priceless. I love food, so this is especially difficult for me, but every time I am able to fast, even for just a meal, I feel a refreshed sense of connection with God. Spend time talking to God, worshiping and even napping (if you can find a comfortable spot). It never hurts to find rest for your soul and simply let go of all the surrounding clamor.
Use an ancient prayer practice to read through the Christmas story in Luke or Matthew.
One prayer and meditation practice that is finding resurgence today is lectio divina. This ancient spiritual discipline was used to make the reader slow down and soak in the Word of God. In lectio divina you will spend an allotted amount of time reading, praying, and meditating on a small portion of the Bible. For further information about lectio divina you can search for information on the web or check out Tony Jones’ book, Read, Think, Pray, Live.
Finding time to engage in the things on this list is not an easy task but it’s not impossible. The key to remember is that our motive and our heart should be connected to make these experiences meaningful and to reinvent Christmas on a personal level. Making it through the Christmas season and staying focused on Christ is challenging but the reward is immeasurable.[Brian is a writer and pastor in Ohio with his wife, Jenna, and three boys. He wants a new laptop for Christmas, you can donate or contact him at www.brianorme.com]
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