It’s that time of the year that feels extra special, extra sparkly, extra festive. And we love it, right?
We decorate glittery trees, bake pans of treats, watch movie after movie, shop and wrap gifts, play carols on repeat, attend Christmas concerts and plays, sip hot chocolate by the fire, and dream of snowflakes—just enough to make our Christmas white.
You just got really excited, didn’t you? Me, too. Because we really, really, really love Christmas!
But this year, I’ve started to wonder why we love the Christmas season so much. Family traditions? Sure. Childhood memories? Perhaps. The extra dose of cheer floating around? Maybe.
Could it be that the reason we’re crazy for Christmas is because it provides us the subtly perfect and celebrated excuse to be . . . well, selfish throughout the month of December?
I know, that kind of notion makes you want pop in your earbuds and turn up Bing Crosby a little louder. We don’t like being confronted with anything that could put a damper on our Christmas cheer. In other words, we don’t like confronting the ugly truth about our hearts.
Will you hang tight and consider this idea with me anyway?
All I Want for Christmas Is . . . My Way
Let’s ponder these subtly selfish phrases often heard at Christmastime:
- Here’s what I want for Christmas.
- You can’t decorate the tree unless I’m there!
- You made the buckeyes without me? Why would you do that?
- I hope that big gift is for me.
- Wait—we have to do it this way. Don’t change the traditions!
- We have to take another picture! (Because I need this for Instagram!)
- All eyes on me—it’s my turn to open a gift now.
- But this wasn’t the gift I asked for . . .
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve uttered some of those phrases. Maybe my stocking should read “The Selfish One” instead of “Samantha.” I’m saddened by the ways I’ve attempted to turn Christmas into my own fantasy in years past. And I know I’m not alone; we all seem to get sucked into selfishness disguised as celebration.
Traditions and songs and memories aren’t the problem; it’s the way our selfish hearts grab tightly onto those things to accomplish our individual Christmas agendas.
- It’s the reason siblings fight on Christmas. We each want our own way.
- It’s the reason we’re disappointed when the day doesn’t live up to our expectations.
- It’s the reason we go into full meltdown mode because we think we’ve missed the mark of Christmas perfection.
- It’s the reason we’re left still wanting more after every gift has been unwrapped.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Disappointment
A selfish mindset at Christmas—whether we recognize it or not—sets us up for so much disappointment. Jon Bloom describes the problem with these fantasies so well:
The false myth . . . is that if we can get it [Christmas] to look like the whimsical hazy collage in our minds, we will experience the “Christmas spirit” and be happy.
The problem is, of course, that everyone’s collage is different. The result is that Christmas fantasy expectations are disappointed. And all too often selfishness suffocates love, lashes out in some form of aggressive or passive anger and destroys whatever joy and peace there may have been.
That’s what makes fantasies so dangerous. They are almost always self-centered attempts to seek happiness by forcing reality to conform to our imagination, which we have no power to do. They make unattainable demands and leave us and others disillusioned (emphasis added).
And worse than disappointment and disillusionment, a selfish mindset sets us up for a lot of sin. We hurt our family members and we grieve the Holy Spirit when we make Christmas about my wants and my hopes and my dreams.
When we’re selfish at Christmas, we showcase the exact opposite of the One we’re celebrating.
Christmas is the celebration of the ultimate humility of Jesus Christ—a King who humbled Himself in an unfathomable way to become our Savior.
So for Christians, the month of December should be a time of deeper focus on Christ’s perfect example of servanthood and selflessness.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:3–8, emphasis added).
It’s the Most Selfless Time of the Year
How can we pivot from the most selfish time of the year to make it the most selfless? Here are some ways:
Pray that God would grant the grace to help you cultivate the humility of Jesus Christ.
- Don’t neglect the Word this Christmas season. It’s right where you’ll find the grace and wisdom to cultivate a spirit of humility.
- Pray for a Christ-focus throughout all your celebrations.
Value others as more significant than yourself and their interests as more significant than your own.
Turn your focus from “What can I get out of this Christmas?” to “How can I bless and honor and show generosity to others this Christmas?”
- Think of creative ways to show generosity.
- Remind yourself of this truth often: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
- Be slow to voice your own opinions and desires; be quick to hear and value the opinions of others.
- Instead of constantly waxing eloquent about your favorite Christmas stuff, ask others about their favorites. Ask your grandparents to tell stories. Ask your younger siblings what they’d like to do.
Empty yourself as a servant.
Put on your Christmas apron, and get to work! Look for opportunity (after opportunity!) to serve.
- Don’t just bake Christmas cookies; clean the kitchen afterward. Scrub those pans and sweep up those sprinkles!
- Don’t just wrap gifts; put the wrapping paper and tape away. And offer to wrap gifts for others, too.
- Don’t just admire the Christmas lights outside; shovel some snow while you admire.
- Ask your mom . . .
- Can I help you clean the house?
- Are there any errands I could run for you?
- What task on your to-do list is weighing you down? Is there a way I can help?
Has Christmas been the most selfish time of the year for you? In what ways has God prompted you to confess and repent? What steps will you take to make this December the most selfless time of the year?