I sat with a small group of young women. Each one shared something about Christmas they looked forward to and something that made the season difficult. Their collective grief over the Christmas season surprised me, for it outweighed any joyful anticipation. For many of them, family gatherings would be the most difficult part of Christmas.

They expected relational tension, difference in convictions and beliefs, unforgotten hurts, broken marriages, old wounds, unresolved bitterness, and routine neglect to fill the air more than Christmas cheer. So, the prospect of Christmas didn’t make them very merry.

Many of us feel as these women do. We feel more strained by the busyness and relational challenges at Christmastime than filled with the “peace on earth” that we wish we felt.

As Christians, we do not live by our feelings, though they matter a great deal to us. We take them into account and express them with raw honesty to the Lord who fashioned our hearts and knows our frame (Psalm 33:15; Psalm 103:14). But after that, we must decide whether to let them or our Lord pilot our hearts.

I would like to encourage you to choose love over longing this Christmas. We can long for what we don’t have, what hasn’t happened, and what we wish were different. Or we can decide to shove all our concerns into the hands of the Lord, get up, and live our lives to the fullest in the power that Christ supplies.

Here are three practical ways to actively enjoy your Christmas season instead of passively resigning to the onslaught of unwanted emotions.

  1. Pray

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

Christmas for most of us isn’t just one day; it’s a season, whether that means three days off work or two weeks home from college. We need the humility each day to cast our cares freshly on the Lord, and seek his help.

This famous passage in 1 Peter that tells us to relay every anxiety we have to the Lord and trust his tender care for us, continues by telling us to be alert. The Christmas season may give us rest from school or work or routine activities, but it gives us no rest from spiritual war. In fact, it may heighten it. Temptations toward discontentment, bitterness, resentment, slothfulness, gluttony, and anger may increase in number.

But by God’s power, this Christmas you can wake up alert and ready for whatever each day holds. You can begin each morning by confiding in the Lord, entrusting your every grievance, guilt, and groaning to him.

Pray each day of this Christmas season, telling God what’s difficult for you, and asking for vigilance to keep watch for temptation, and the treacherous thoughts that might be whispered to you by the enemy, or churned out of your own heart.

Enter every day battle-ready, by dealing with your own heart with him before entering the relational ring of family and friends. Ask for divine help. Praying will prepare you to watch out for temptation towards sin, and recognize God’s tender mercies pursuing you in response to your prayers (Psalm 23:6).

  1. Find Someone to Love

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. (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

You may see many people at Christmastime, or you may just see one! Either way, you are likely to interact with others.

In the book of Philippians, God adjusts our perspective. He tells us that other people—their griefs, their desires, their needs—matter just as much as our own. In fact, God calls us to consider them more important than ourselves.   

For this is the perspective our Lord took. His interest in our eternal destiny, our sorrows, our desperate state drove him off his throne. He humbled himself to an unfathomable degree (Philippians 2:8) so that he might bless us. He gave us the greatest service ever performed, one that was impossible for anyone but himself to accomplish—he saved us from the wrath of God and an eternity suffering his just judgment. He took care of our sin, that we might enjoy peace and fellowship with God.

Christ has a mind to bless others. Christian, he has given that mind to you (1 Corinthians 2:16)! Every day this Christmas you have the opportunity to serve and love others. Even taking an interest in another’s interest in a spare moment while sitting with them on a couch, or cooking in the kitchen, or mingling after church service may bless them immensely. And if done out of obedience to Christ and from a place of gratitude for how he served you on the cross, well that simple conversation just turned into a beautiful act of worship.

Find someone to love. Take an interest in their world, their words, and their cares. Enter situations expecting to serve another, rather than be served. In doing so, you will imitate your Lord, who lives to serve and bless his people.

  1. Laugh Out Loud

You may not expect this next exhortation. Stick with me. God has tucked a few helpful notes about our hearts in the book of Proverbs we don’t want to miss. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (ESV). A happy heart gives life to our whole being.

There is a joy that lodges in the hearts of all God’s children that profound suffering cannot snuff out, and relentless grievances cannot overcome. That’s because our joy is not a sentiment we conjure, nor a mood that comes and goes. It’s personal. Our joy is the fruit of the presence of a certain Someone who dwells in our hearts—the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Since he has taken up residence and promised to never forsake the halls of your heart, nothing in heaven or on earth will be able to steal him from you. Thus, joy is always yours if you will have him.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 17:22 that joy is a kind of medicine. In some untraced way, it ministers to us. Would you ask God this Christmas to give you genuine laughter?

God is a God of joy, and he wants to bring you joy.  

Are there happy and wholesome things that bring you great delight, make you giggle, or that incite laughter among you and your friends, that you could pursue? My family enjoys watching “The Grinch” (2018), which sent us into belly aching laughter the first time we saw it. Sometimes we wear goofy outfits all day on Christmas, dance around, or just let out the sillies that we usually.

Is there someone you could humor to brighten their day? What form does your wholesome silliness take, and could you use that to bless another person?

Ask the Holy Spirit for the kind of simple medicine only he can apply to your soul—a good laugh. He’s the God of joy, and he is for you in all things. Sometimes in the shadowy-est depths of our distress, a laugh can part the clouds and make way for a stream of heavenly sunshine.

Give God your cares, ask for help, seek to serve, and ask God for a good laugh.

You Can Enjoy Christmas

Friend, I don’t want you to succumb to the malaise that may overthrow your soul at Christmas. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation—and all the old humbug habits of the sinful flesh have no power over you (Romans 16:3). You can live with joy in a way that honors God and blesses others this Christmas. Things might be tough—real tough. But tough doesn’t need to be a tidal wave that knocks you out. Christ will hold your hand through this season, and he may enable you to be the hand another needs. Along the way, he might just give you a good laugh to get you through. Trust him, take his hand, and by the power of God’s Spirit, may you bring with you the light and laughter you long to see among your family this year.

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