From the archives. I wrote this article many years ago, but I think it still resonates, even in the midst of our discontinuous time…
You know they’re coming. You can feel it just as certain as the slight chill you sense each fall morning. And when they come, you hope you’ll be able to hold on in the battle of time, diet, and onslaught of company to retain your sanity and sense of humor. But isn’t there more to the holidays than all of this? Is there any hope of making this year’s holiday season one full of peace, joy and happiness? Can the holidays really become holy-days? Here are a few tips that can make the difference in your household:
- Keep your focus clear. Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is not about a turkey dinner(with apologies to grocery store owners). Nor is Christmas about getting, or even giving, gifts (with apologies to retail storeowners). Nothing wrong with food (I love it!), nothing wrong with giving or receiving gifts (I love them too!). But, the truth is that the first celebrations of these holidays had entirely different meanings than now dominate our thoughts.
Thanksgiving celebrates the provision of God through the harsh seasons of the early years of the Pilgrims. God supplied through the Indians, and through the work of the people. Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ child, given freely by God for the salvation of the world. The early church took an existing celebration and used it to mark a moment of quiet awe at the gift of God. This year, determine in advance that you will keep thankfulness in your Thanksgiving and awe in your Christmas.
- Do something to meet the needs of others. The quickest way to break the cycle of destructive, hectic, holiday madness is to meet the needs of someone less fortunate than you. When you participate in a feeding program, when you give clothing to those who need it, when you wrap a gift (new!) for a needy child, you break the cycle of self-absorption that our culture is so capable of fostering. And by the way…if you have children—make sure they participate with you. Children are uniquely susceptible to the self-absorption of our time. And, children are uniquely able to understand the difference between their heightened sense of “want” at this time of year and the very real “need” of others when they see it up close and personal.
- Participate in a meaningful holy-day observance. I know you may not be religious. But, the holy-days have a way of providing meaning and value to life that is often absent in the rush of our world. Take time this season to be with people of faith. Share some moments where you can hear the Christmas story in all the wonder and awe of the first century. Risk a moment of faith in your hurry up world. See with awe and majesty what God can do when you risk a single step.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6)