Ready or not the Christmas season is here! The shopping has begun, trees are going up, homes are being decorated and schedules are filling up! And while these things are designed to help us get into the Christmas spirit, sometimes it takes more than decorating your house and going to parties! Sometimes it’s hard to get in the Christmas spirit. It can be especially tough if you’ve experienced hardship and stress this year. Maybe this past year somebody you loved, died. Maybe you went through a divorce. Whatever struggle you have experienced this year, when the holidays arrive, it seems to heighten loneliness. Sometimes, it is not the things we DO externally that get us in the Christmas spirit, but the way we prepare in our hearts and minds. Just three things I want to encourage you to consider if you’re finding it tough to get in the Christmas spirit this year.
#1 Look past the labels
If you want to get in the Christmas spirit, try looking past all the labels and judgments to truly see the people around you. It may be a stranger, a friend or people in your own family, but chances are there are people are around you, who you’ve failed to see. Without even thinking about it, we look at people and very quickly create labels in our minds. We judge people by what we see, the color of their skin, or their faith, whether they’re Christian, Jews or Muslims. We judge them by their sexuality, are they gay or straight, are they Republican or Democrat, are they wild or boring? To simply be able to see another person as a human being, a child of God, is a gift. We can renew our minds and look past all the labels to experience the true spirit of Christmas when we look past all the labels!
#2 Be a blessing to others
Second, it is by blessing others that we can experience the Christmas spirit. Open your eyes to those around you who could use encouragement. Maybe it’s a member of your family, a friend or a stranger you encounter. There are so many wonderful opportunities to bless others this time of year. When you look for ways to be a blessing, it prepares your heart to experience God reaching out to you on Christmas.
#3 Look for God at work
Third, you and I need to practice knowing the presence of God. I believe God is working in the world every day, but a lot of times we don’t see it; we miss it because we are so busy and overwhelmed. I don’t know about you but there are times when I look back on my day when I’ve been running hard, trying to check things off my list and often I feel further behind than when the day began! Whether we are experiencing financial, relationship or medical issues, there are so many things we face in life that can leave us feeling lonely and overwhelmed. And when you’re feeling this way it is really hard to hear God speak in your life. When we practice knowing that God is near and we look for God at work, we remember we aren’t doing this alone! I love the old saying, where optimism rules, opportunities never cease. Optimism rules when you and I know we’re not doing it alone, when we feel God’s presence and cultivate a receptive, listening heart.