How to Not Be a Grinch this Christmas2
I’m the quintessential introvert. Sure, I have the rare moment of extrovertedness, but I am typically the person who likes to stay on the fringe of a gathering of people, preferably with a book in hand. I’m very proud of my hermit tendencies. However, during the holiday season, this becomes much more than just a personality trait and starts resembling the popular character from famed children’s book author, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. For the person who hasn’t read the titular book or watched the movies recreating it, (the Jim Carrey version is currently on Netflix), the Grinch is a character who isolates himself from community and reviles the Christmas spirit and traditions overtaking everyone else. To be fair, the Grinch doesn’t dislike Christmas; he dislikes people and how they have commercialized the holiday season. And that is something my small Grinch heart can relate to.
Over the week leading up to Thanksgiving this year, there were a total of 10 family members staying at my house. Thanksgiving Day itself saw an estimated 50 people under one roof for a cacophonous dinner. Gatherings such as this are rampant during the month of December, with a holiday party occuring every weekend. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping and binge eating that by mid-December you’re no longer agreeing that it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but the most stressful.
So, how do we keep our hearts and minds focused on Christ, since that is what we’re actually celebrating? Here is what has helped me navigate what is typically a busy and anxiety-ridden season.
I didn’t grow up in a church that taught about Advent, which simply means “coming.” During the 4th and 5th centuries, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matt 2:1), his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (Jn 1:29), and his first miracle at Cana (Jn 2:1). During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration. This definition from Christianity.com does not look like the Christmas season we know and participate in today, but I think this is a good start to realign what matters most. Instead of waiting through the candle lighting on Sundays this month, dig into the origins of Advent and what it means to wait on the Lord.
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Heb 2:9).
Think of all the time it takes you to put up the Christmas tree, decorate your house, or shop for hours on end for gifts. What if we devoted even a portion of that time to reading scripture and prayer? There will always be a to do list waiting for us, a party we need to prepare for, but it all means nothing if we’re forgetting to rejoice over the birth of the one who saved us. By all means, go to that Christmas work party, but if it takes any time away from your daily prayer or scripture reading, you’re far busier than the Lord ever intended you to be.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Rom 15:4).
The holidays inspire perfectionism in a lot of us. We want to find the perfect gift for a loved one. Our house has to be perfectly decorated and clean for people to come over. Our kids must be perfectly behaved and participate in all the Christmas pageants. We want the perfect Christmas dinner and make the very best recipes that our grandmothers used to do all by themselves. And on and on. Things will go wrong this month. I’m not saying don’t try to make things great, but give yourself a break about ticking every Christmas box on the to do list.
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well (Lk 12:29-31).
For those of us that are financially challenged, this is a hard one. I’ve found, however, that when I am at my most-Grinchy, when I do something, even as simple as a phone call to check on someone, that is a far better gift sometimes to myself and that other person than anything I could find at Target. Of course, we want to feel pride in getting our family and friends the perfect present, but not at the cost of any financial security.
It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
More than anything, Christmas is a time of rejoicing, because the one who saved us was born, lived a perfect life, sacrificed himself for us, and then rose again. And that is the whole point of the season! As the Grinch says, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more!”