What makes Christmas actually Christmas?

Look at the calendar every year and you will find Christmas on December 25th.    But, what is it that makes Christmas actually Christmas for you? Christmas brings a flood of memories to mind, with thoughts of candy, cookies, gifts and relatives crowding the house.  Depending on your circumstances, Christmas might bring joy, or it might bring stress and depression.  Either way, your mind recognizes Christmas in some way.  How?  I have heard many different ideas on this and many of them have very little to do with the actual date on the calendar.  Someone might say that they are going to have Christmas at this side of the family and then have Christmas at that side of the family next.  Yet, on the calendar I only see Christmas one time.  We realize that Christmas must be more to many of us than simply a day, it must be a season that represents more than any gift or celebration could.  Yet, so much pressure is put on getting things set for that specific day.

In a previous post, I talked about seasons of the year and compared that to seasons of life.   For some, the season of life they are in will dictate how they spend Christmas, or what Christmas looks like for them.  For example, some people will find no way around working on Christmas or Christmas Eve. Then I wonder, if the presents are not opened at exactly 6 a.m. on Christmas morning, will Christmas be forever lost?  There was an article in the paper this weekend that described some of the financial reasons people are delaying their Christmas celebrations.  Well, how about if there is no money for presents, will it still be Christmas?

There needs to be some balance sought in this season.  Taking some time and being flexible will do everyone some good.  In the running around between functions, cookie exchanges, church programs, school programs and all the shopping, is it any wonder people are more than ready to put all the decorations away come January?  Christmas, no matter what it entails, should be enjoyable not dreaded.  Yet, too often it is.

In my observations from the world I live in, I have a few ideas that just might be useful reminders to people in these ever tense final days before Christmas.

Calm Down — If you don’t have every little detail perfectly arranged, it is going to be alright.  If your ‘Clark W. Griswold’ light display isn’t finished or the kids have knocked over the Christmas tree again, it will be alright.  The point is not to have it all put together, but to celebrate the birth of the King in a meaningful way.   Jesus was born in lowly conditions, not a castle. Let’s just keep our head on straight.

Do Not Over Spend— Gifts very quickly become the center of discussion everywhere.  It also seems like with each year the gift requested are becoming more expensive.  My 2nd grader already wants an I-Pod for Christmas. Don’t worry, I told him to keep dreaming. Toys and electronics break, clothing fades and then get thrown away.  Conversely, relationships last and are more fulfilling.   Rather than add the stress to the rest of the year to pay off Christmas debt, spend what you can afford to and live in freedom the rest of the year.  Invest energy in family activity verses an overindulgence of stuff that will just isolate families more from each other.  Not to mention, January can be a real wake up call for many when they get the bill for their spending.

Smile- I was entering the drug store the other day and there was a couple approaching to my left. I stopped, looked them in the eye, and held the door for them.  They just sort of grunted at me and went on their way.  In that case, I didn’t make a huge connection but I did step out and try.  Look for ways to smile and show kindness to people.  It does make a difference.  The key to doing this is to slow down and notice people.  I have had opportunities at the grocery store to help someone just because I had my eyes open.

Remember – Christmas comes no matter what is, or isn’t under the tree.  The foundation for Christmas is in the Savior, Jesus Christ, born so that mankind would be saved from their sinfulness.  The best gift has already been given.  If you are not able to afford extravagant gifts, remember the greatest gift of all and just enjoy the time with family and friends.

What makes Christmas actually Christmas for you?  The time I spend with my family for any holiday is irreplaceable.  I would not trade it for any material gift.  But, for me Christmas is not just a day on the calendar, but a season.  It includes the getting the tree out with the kids, making cookies, sending cards, giving gifts and  then the time spent enjoying the people around me.

However it works for you, I trust that you will have a truly blessed time!

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