If Christmas spirit were a cup of coffee, I’d be sipping that stuff all December long. Warm and fuzzy, snowy and sparkly, I don’t think I could get enough. Give me a White Christmas marathon, freshly baked gingerbread, gifts to wrap, and gently falling snow, and I’d be nearly delirious.
I set up my tent in the camp that truly believes it is the most wonderful time of the year. And I really do sing along with Bing with every bit of gusto, as if I’m willing the clouds to burst with snowflakes. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.”
There’s a point when enjoying the goodies and goodness of the season morphs into pressure to create the most perfect kind of Christmas.
Sometimes I buy into those songs and those peppermint-y feelings so much that I start to think I’ve got the recipe to a perfect Christmas. You know what I mean, right? The list of traditions and conditions that make it the warmest, fuzziest kind of holiday? The snow, the mugs of hot chocolate, the movies, the twinkling lights, and the roaring fire? It’s starting to sound like a Hallmark movie up in here.
But I’ve come to learn there’s a point when enjoying the goodies and goodness of the season morphs into pressure to create the most perfect kind of Christmas.
Allow me to illustrate.
Follow the Recipe to a Perfect Christmas?
Every December, Santa comes to town and pays my family a personalized visit. So yes, I’m proud to say that Santa and I are pals, and I have a number of pictures as proof. For those who are wondering, Santa is tall, not-so-round, and his voice uncannily resembles my grandpa’s.
Over Christmas break one year, I was deep in an attempt to be Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, and Rachel Ray by baking a pumpkin roll with peach cream cheese filling, mint chocolate whoopie pies, and homemade hot chocolate. My pumpkin roll was not baking properly, despite my exasperated effort, and I was on the verge of a holiday meltdown.
Of course, Santa arrived on our doorstep at the very moment that tears were about to flow because of the pumpkin mess in the oven.
“Mom, I don’t want Santa to be here!” I said through frustrated tears. I was eighteen years old. My mom couldn’t help but laugh through her effort in being sympathetic.
I was a floury wreck (Martha Stewart would shake her head in disappointment), and I didn’t want Santa’s visit to happen at a time when I had the desire to throw my cookbook through the kitchen window.
I wanted my holiday traditions to be perfect, but Martha and Santa would attest that this moment was far from that.
The sad thing is I could share just about seven other similar stories where I really believed all of Christmas was threatened with ruin because something wasn’t happening the way I thought it should. Under the guise of red and green cheer was actually a controlling heart trying to achieve selfish dreams.
It’s Time to Release the Pressure Valve
The truth is God doesn’t intend for us to muster up good feelings, bake perfect pumpkin rolls, and sing idealistic songs in a Christmas-y haze. He intends for us to cherish the reality of His incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.
Jon Bloom summarizes it well: “Christmas is not about fulfilling our holiday expectations. It’s about celebrating Jesus’s overwhelming accomplishment for us and following in his humble servant footsteps.”
And even if were there no peppermint mochas or stockings or icicle lights, we would still have everything we need to celebrate Christmas.
Does that change your perspective a bit? It should.
Even if were there no peppermint mochas or stockings or icicle lights, we would still have everything we need to celebrate Christmas.
Release the pressure valve of the perfect Christmas. Let’s stop selfishly trying to create the warmest and fuzziest feelings. Let’s forget those Hallmark movie plots and zoom in on the earth-shattering reality of the incarnation.
It won’t be a perfect Christmas. But it can be a praise-filled Christmas.
Here are three ways we can challenge our perspective of Christmas this season by making the gospel our priority and loving others above ourselves:
- Be hospitable.
Resist the urge to do your own Christmas stuff by yourself. Call up some friends who need some company. Maybe your family could host another family for a special dinner. Why? Hospitality reflects the heart of Jesus—it fosters a gospel perspective (1 Peter 4:9–10; Rom. 12:13).
- Be generous.
Our Savior wasn’t being cliché when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). That’s truth you can take to the bank. It’ll remove our self-focus and create an others-focus that’s just plain joyful.
- Dig into Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The Christmas season truly comes alive when we grapple with the massive miracle of the incarnation—Jesus taking on flesh. It led to the crucifixion and the resurrection. It paved the way for our salvation! Saturate your heart with gospel truth this December. It could very well change your view of Christmas forever.
Can you feel the pressure releasing?
Some Genuine Christmas Spirit
Instead of a passion for achieving the ever-elusive “perfect Christmas,” we should be filled with a passion for Christ and sharing His love. That’s the real kind of Christmas spirit I want in my coffee cup.
Instead of a passion for achieving the ever-elusive “perfect Christmas,” we should be filled with a passion for Christ and sharing His love.
You can still keep—and enjoy—your traditions, just remember your Christmas doesn’t have to hinge on them. So drink your hot chocolate, but drink it while reading some Scripture. Go on and watch White Christmas, but watch it with friends and family, old and new. Wrap gifts by the fire, and pray for the recipients. Bake cookies, and if they burn, have no fear. Betty Crocker isn’t watching, and it’ll be okay.
Join me in dumping the “perfect Christmas pressure,” being content with what the season brings, and revelling in the glorious life we’ve been given in the gospel.
I think this is a good starting place.
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, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 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. 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. 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
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.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Luke 2:4-20).