Can you feel it? Can you sense it? Stores are bustling with shoppers hunting down that special gift, radio stations are playing non-stop holiday music from years gone by, and trees with bright lights and beautiful ornaments are glowing in homes across America. Without a doubt, the Christmas season is here.
I enjoy this time of year. The music, the lights, and the activity bring about an excitement I look forward to each winter. However, it can be hard to push past the distractions that come with the season and remain focused on Christ.
Tuning Out the Noise
In order for us to have an impact for God’s kingdom during the Christmas season (and any season) we need to reflect on how we are living out our faith on a daily basis. It begins with me, with you, and with the church.
Take stock of your devotional life. Spiritual disciplines are vital to the Christian life. Although there are many disciplines, let’s focus on reading and praying. Christ engaged in these disciplines during his time on earth. Here are some examples of his familiarity with God’s Word.
- He responded to Satan’s temptations by citing what was written (Luke 4).
- He referred to Scripture to remind his disciples of the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-40).
- He predicted Peter’s denial by quoting Zechariah (Matthew 26:31).
Jesus not only studied God’s Word, he spent time in prayer with the Father.
- He prayed before selecting his disciples (Luke 6:12-16).
- He retreated after times of hardship to refocus on the mission at hand (Matthew 11:20-26).
- He began his day with solitary prayer (Mark 1:35).
Today we find many reasons to push these disciplines aside, but without a regular routine of encountering God, how can we expect to share with those around us how God is moving in our lives? Consider this. The creator of the universe, the One who made the heavens and earth, who made you and me as image bearers, has given each of us not just one letter, but rather a collection of letters so that we can know who he is. He is not a distant God. In fact, the Holy Spirit is in us, guiding, directing, and comforting us. God gives us his full attention as we speak daily with him through prayer. Imagine the understanding and perspective we will have with others when we are rooted in his Word and his presence.
Examine your attitudes. Do our attitudes and values align with Christ’s? Do we see the world through our eyes, or are we seeing the world through Christ’s eyes? If the people around us discovered that we are followers of Christ, would they be shocked? Would they be surprised to learn that Christ is the focus of our Christmas?
Our attitude impacts how we see others and how others see us. Christ’s attitude was one of compassion, love, forgiveness, and teaching. His attitude toward the marginalized and unbelievers was much different than his attitude toward the Pharisees. Sometimes we get these attitudes mixed up and expect unbelievers to adhere to something they have no idea about. This is where we come in. Rather than arguing with others during the Christmas season, we need to speak with grace and truth. We must see others as Christ sees them—valued, worthy, and beloved regardless of where they are from, what language they speak, and how different from us they may be. God pursues us all and our attitude toward others should reflect his.
Take note of your distractions. In the classic Rankin/Bass cartoon Frosty the Snowman, the magician is seen running off in the distance to write his apology saying, “Sorry to lose and run, but I’ve got to get busy writing. Busy, busy, busy!” Although we may not have an apology letter to write, this sentiment is very familiar. During this time of year we are “busy, busy, busy” with parties, shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping, singing, visiting, planning, and more. None of these things is wrong, but when we allow the busyness of the season to overtake our calendars, we allow Christ to be pushed to the side.
Let’s also consider distractions that can lead to an unhealthy focus for us during this season. Take, for example, the “War on Christmas.” The notion of “Merry Christmas!” being replaced with “Happy Holidays!” has stirred quite the response. (The word holidays, by the way, can be traced back to “holy days,” referencing a religious day). Debates on whether government property is an appropriate place for a nativity scene are held in break rooms and social media. But we must ask ourselves, how many people have come to know Christ as Lord and Savior through a reenactment that often depicts the setting inaccurately? Are we more willing to speak about a nativity scene being taken down than to speak to a friend about the importance of Christ’s birth during this season?
To be clear, I’m not saying giving gifts, decorating trees, or placing a nativity scene next to City Hall are unimportant. However, we need to take an inventory of how much we allow our distractions to pull us away from celebrating the birth of our Savior.
Living Out Our Faith
So how do we apply these lessons to our lives this season to be a Christmas Witness?
Begin with prayer. Just as Jesus went off to pray, find time this week (and each week) to spend in prayer with God. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the attitude you need during this season. Is it an attitude of joy or compassion? Maybe it’s hope or even forgiveness. Whatever the need is, pray that the Spirit clarifies and strengthens you to live out whatever attitude he desires.
Learn to see others through Jesus’ eyes. Maybe it’s a friend who struggles during this season from past difficulties or a family member who is combative at the mention of Christ’s name. Ask the Spirit to help you see others the way God sees them—valued and loved.
Read the nativity story. Try to put yourself in the place of the participants. How was Mary feeling when she found out she was pregnant? What about Joseph? Imagine you are one of the shepherds in the nearby field. Describe what you saw and how you felt. How would you respond? Describe the responsibility Mary and Joseph may have felt knowing the miraculous nature of their child. How has the reality of Christ’s birth directly impacted your life today?
Be a witness. It’s important to share with others, believers and non-believers, how God is moving in our lives. For years I felt uncomfortable when talking about my faith. It was as if I was trying to force Jesus into the conversation with someone. However, as I spent time in prayer, reading, and careful examination of my journey, it became easier to discuss such topics. As you work through the nativity story this season, share with someone what you are learning. Share your reflections as you would any story from your life.
This Christmas, choose to move away from distractions and divisive attitudes; instead, see others as God sees them. Invite others into your journey as you talk about the ways God is moving during this wonderful season of the year. Realizing that we share what is most important on our heart and minds, don’t let the noise overshadow the beauty and truth of the Christmas season.
Brad Himes, the founder of The Groups Conference, continues to work with churches in the areas of discipleship, groups, and leadership development. He is a Performance Consultant at a local hospital in Mattoon, Illinois.