At Raintree’s Christmas Eve Candlelight, I wanted to give some really practical, brief suggestions about what to do this Christmas. Really, these are great things to consider year-round. Here they are, some really simple reminders, for myself included.
Six Things to do This Christmas (and Every Day).
- Put the phone down (or turn off the TV).
Really, the point here is to limit your technological intake. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I love Facebook, but far better this week, and really every week, is to have some designated time where you don’t have your phone, and designated time that the TV is off. Maybe not all of you struggle with being on your phone too much, and perhaps that’s a generational thing.
But usually, the reason we love being on Facebook so much is because we love immediate approval. Likes and comments on Facebook are a constant measurement of our approval from others. Ooh, I got another like. Ooh, look how much people like me. But if we depend upon Facebook for our value and for our meaning (especially around Christmas), we’re missing out on finding our true value in Christ! By believing in Jesus, placing our trust in him and what he has accomplished for us, in his death and resurrection, we become children of God! We don’t need 100 likes on Facebook, because we have the love and favor of God. So, find time to put the phone down this Christmas. And, just generally, limit all technology, at least to an extent.
- Be kind.
This one may sound a bit cheesy or obvious, and yet, we need to be reminded of it. If you’re a Christian, you have more reason to be kind than anyone else on the planet. Especially this week, in pondering a baby being born, the Son of God, and pondering the fact that this baby grew into a man, who would become our sacrifice. Pondering our sin, and pondering the cost that God was willing to pay (in giving his own son), to have us reconciled to him. For you and for me to be the recipients of this unspeakable kindness and love. We should have no problem with showing kindness to others.
I encourage you to figure out a few unique ways to be kind this Christmas, and, for that matter, every other day of the year also. Maybe that means serving a neighbor or baking cookies for them. Maybe that means showing extra grace and love toward an annoying family member. Whatever it is, remember, again: you and I have more reason to be kind, because we’ve shown such an unspeakable kindness.
I promise you, even if singing just isn’t your gift, you have reason to sing. Why we sing, especially for Christians: the “3 R’s” (I borrowed this from Bob Kauflin with Desiring God). We sing to remember. We sing to respond. And we sing to reflect.
We sing to remember. Singing does help us remember, especially if we’re singing the Bible. One of my favorite groups right now is Shane and Shane, because they’ve been writing all these songs based on the Psalms. I heavily encourage you check them out. You can just google Shane & Shane Psalms, and you’ll find quite a few of them. One of my favorites is Psalm 23. “Surely goodness, surely mercy, right beside me all my days. And I will dwell in your house forever and bless your holy name. Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” You get the idea.
What a great way to remember God’s Word, to respond to God in worship, especially because of what he’s done for us! This Christmas and every day, break out in song! Sing your favorite Christmas song tomorrow, throughout the house, together as a family, however! Or make up your own song! You and your family. It might be terrible, but it’s fun, and, again, it’s celebratory. Sing because God has sent his son to the earth to save us!
- Be grateful (and generous)
It may be that not one of us in this room feels rich, but can I tell you something: we are rich! And I don’t just mean in a spiritual way, though that’s certainly true as well. I mean we live in the most prosperous country in the world. We have the most conveniences of anyone in the world. NO matter your financial situation, you are in a better place than the vast majority of the entire population of the world. Be grateful! Frankly, even if you weren’t better off than the vast majority of the rest of the world, we are richer than imaginable in Christ. That’s not cheesy. That’s true. Let it soak in.
Considering how sinful and rebellious we are, especially, we don’t deserve to wake up in the morning, much less to have what we have. Be grateful, and be generous. With your time, your money, your energy. Give it away! Use it for God’s Church, use it to minister to those around you, and do it willingly! Again, not because you want to feel good about yourself, but because God has so filled us with his love, that we have more to give than we can even imagine. And we can so easily forget that by forgetting the gospel, this good news about what we have been given in Christ. Be grateful, especially for Christ, and generosity will likely come a lot more naturally.
- Spend quantity time with family.
I didn’t say that incorrectly: Spend quantity time with family. Now, obviously, yes, “quality” time matters as well. But sometimes we get the wrong idea of “quality.” Sometimes it’s easy to think that quality means we have to be taking trips and making memories with special plans. Certainly, doing those things are great. But, there is also something great about being bored together. Doing the mundane together. Cleaning house together. Playing a board game together, like my favorite board game, Monopoly. Quantity time is when you really make memories.
Quantity time is why I can say things like, “Oh, oh, chick, chick, boom, boom.” And laugh even though none of you get that at all. Or, “hey, hey, HONK.” To this day, those random things I just wrote are private jokes that are part of what make it fun to be part of my family. You have no idea what I just said, but those are meaningful memories for me! And most of these kinds of memories happen in the times when we’re not really trying to make memories. We’re just together, a lot, maybe even bored together.
That may not seem like it has much to do with Christmas, but it does. Spend time together this week, and if possible, even time without plans.
- Read the Bible (Matthew 1, Luke 2—Isaiah 7 & 9).
This is probably one of the very best things you can do this Christmas, and every other day of the year. The reason what we celebrate at Christmas is not just for Christmas is because it’s the very beginning of God fulfilling his plan to redeem mankind through Jesus Christ. Read the Bible. Let’s finish by doing just that, and I choose the Christmas story :). Luke 2:1-21.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.