Every Christmas, it’s easy to complain about how commercialized the season has become. Santa seems to reign supreme with fewer and fewer nativity scenes gracing the lawns of neighbors. The news gives us all the bad news we need to feed our discontent. But we don’t always hear of the blessings of the season and the thousands of stories of people finding ways to bless others in their midst.
Pastor Andy Stanley, of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, has a a ministry that extends far beyond the churches that stream his weekly sermons. Many thousands look forward to his messages online. This year, in his first of three Christmas messages on “The Reasons for the Season,” he shared an observation that hit home.
He reminded listeners of a bumper sticker from the past that tried to bring Christ back into Christmas--“Jesus is the reason for the season.” Every saying captures a time but tends to run its course. You don’t see many of those bumper stickers today, but the sentiment remains.
In his sermon, Andy questioned the validity of the statement. Jesus isn’t the reason for the season. Jesus didn’t come to be honored or adored at Christmas. The real reason for the season, the reason God sent his Son, is for YOU and ME. He came to be a blessing that by believing in Him we might have a personal relationship with God. But it came with a mission—through faith, we are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a blessing to others.
Isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be about for believers? We take time to remember the greatest Christmas gift of all—God sent his Son to be in our midst and call us to a life of faith and service.
Whenever I get discouraged watching the news, I remind myself that every day the media must search to find new material to grab our attention. Some days, it’s easy to find catchy headlines to stir our anger and despair. Some days it is thankfully harder. For in reality there’s a lot more goodness and love out there than there is hatred and crime. But the good too often goes underreported.
In this Christmas season, maybe it is time for us to put more focus on some of the blessings that we so easily take for granted. For twenty-one Christmas seasons from 1994 to 2015, I sent out a Christmas ezine “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Starting 12 days before Christmas, I would send an email every day helping to keep Christ in Christmas. I would include a thought-provoking quotation, a mirthful moment of Christmas humor, and a story that captured a Christmas blessing. People not only treasured and shared the email messages, but they also sent their own stories and content for me to include.
Looking back at the hundreds of past messages, I was touched again by the stories of people blessing others during the Christmas season. I’ve decided that for the next two weeks we could do a daily story to remind us to do the same.
Starting today on Facebook (take this out when posting unless townhall.com decides to let me post the 12 daily messages on their website), I will be posting a Christmas story designed to remind us how we too, with our words and actions can help transform this Christmas season into memories to be treasured. You can follow me on Facebook and like or share my posts. You may even want to take time to share your favorite memories of people who lived out the Christmas spirit in reply. Let’s let our blessings be a bit more contagious by spreading them around.
To start this daily dose of Christmas cheer, let me share a family tradition that you may want to consider using in your family. With inflation hitting our pocketbooks and our minds struggling to find that perfect gift, here is a gift that finds a way to capture the love that often goes unsaid.
Years ago, Angela shared a treasured Christmas family tradition you may want to try: "I am the fourth oldest of nineteen children. We grew up on a farm and didn't have much money to celebrate a traditional Christmas. Each year we wrapped old shoe boxes in holiday paper and put them under our tree. Each box had a child's name on it and a slit at the top of the box. During the entire month of December, we would take time out each night to write letters to the other siblings. Sometimes we would write poems or funny stories about that person and then place them in their box. On Christmas morning the family would gather. We would read out of the Bible, sing carols, and then open our boxes and read our letters. Now that we are no longer children, and we have lives of our own, it is still the highlight of the season to wake up Christmas morning to find the 'box from home with all of the letters inside. It's not the material gifts that we look for, it is the gifts from the heart."
What are the gifts from the heart that you treasure this year? What personal stories from Christmases past could you share to remind others what Christmas truly is about. This Christmas, remember that you are blessed, but even more important, find ways to be a blessing every day.
Terry Paulson is a Ph.D. psychologist, author, professional speaker and a Christian. If you have a short story about a Christian blessing you’d like to have my share in the future, and email your story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org