This Christmas mania in October and November sets me ill at ease. I know that it's important to celebrate each holiday in its own season, but I struggle to articulate why.
I want Christmas to wait its turn because the Christmas season, as modeled by the consumer market, is not about anticipating Jesus' birth, but rather the Christmas season has become a time of overindulgence, overspending, greed, and gluttony.
But Christmas is not waiting its turn! And now, it is spreading throughout the year. Advent and the Christmas season used to make up 7%-11% of our year. Advent is a season of anticipating the coming of Christ. It encompasses the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas in the church year. On Christmas and for the next 11 days, many Christians celebrate Christmastide or the 12 days of Christmas. If you celebrate just Advent, it is 7% of your year. If you celebrate Advent & Christmastide, it is 11% of your year. But now, Christmas is spreading like a virus to other months, as it is approaching 25%+ of the year because it is taking over October, November, December, and even popping into July!
The beauty in mixing cultural holidays with the celebrations of the church year is being blurred and lost by the spreading of Christmas. We are missing out on a critical season of thankfulness. As soon as the air starts to turn crisp, we start thinking of what we want for Christmas and what we hope to get. We are not counting our blessings, we are looking for more stuff.
Furthermore, Christmas' meaning has become unfortunately marginalized or lost. We may still read Luke 2 as a family before we tear into our giant pile of presents, but Christmas is increasingly becoming a season to focus on indulging ourselves and surrendering to a bad case of the Christmas Gimmes. We build up our wishlists and dream of what we might get for Christmas.
Additionally, Black Friday, the unofficial start of the secular Christmas season, has been creeping into Thanksgiving. Many people leave a meal called Thanks-Giving to fight over more things to put into their houses!!
We are losing our spirit of gratitude. We are losing our ability to give thanks. We are losing sight of Christ in His manager because our presents block Him from our view. But we can invest in and cultivate a spirit of gratitude. We can relearn how to be thankful.
Ways to Cultivate a Thankful and Grateful Spirit
*Give thanks to God and the people He used to bless you. Thank them for what they have done and who they are.
*Take time to count your blessings.
"Count your many blessings; name them one by one"
"When I'm worried and cannot sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. And I'll fall asleep counting my blessings."
*Keep a loose grip on your stuff...or it may get a tight grip on you! Look through your possessions to find stuff you can give away and share your blessings with others.
*Volunteer in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen! Serve on a mission trip! Find ways to interact with or serve those who have less. Remind yourself when you are serving them, that Jesus told His disciples that when we serve the stranger, the hungry, the sick, the prisoner, those who lack clothes & basic needs, we are serving Him.
*Commercials, advertisements, and window shopping awaken a spirit of discontentment, envy, and longing. Try to find more wholesome, simple pleasures to replace these activities & their negative repercussions. Take walks in the fall (or winter) weather. Take joy in seeing beautiful Christmas lights displays (as long as you are not becoming jealous & discontented over yours!) through walks or drives around town.
*Make a gratitude tree. Cut out leaves on which you & your family write blessings and things you are grateful for.
*Take time to time to sit in silence and listen to the Lord.
*Find a Bible Study (or make your own) that focuses on rejoicing, be glad, joy, thankfulness, and other similar words. Immerse yourselves in these verses and memorize them.
Remember that you are heading off in a different direction from your popular culture. It will seem like an uphill battle. You may be called a Scrooge or a Grinch for not joining in the Christmas frenzy early. Who knows? After a month of thankfulness and gratitude, you may find that your Christmas season is impacted too.
What other ways do you practice and cultivate gratefulness and thankfulness?