Keeping Jesus at the Center of the Season

I love Christmas but the weeks leading up to it are often the busiest and most demanding of the year. As a ministry wife, I can feel pressure to be involved in every church event. As a mom, I want to support my kids by attending their performances and activities. And as a wife, daughter, sister, neighbor, and friend, I want to show love and hospitality to the people in my life.

I always begin the season with joyful anticipation, but as the holiday draws nearer, I’m easily overwhelmed by preparations and expectations. My heart becomes weary and anxious. Shopping for gifts, preparing meals, organizing church events, and hosting family and friends can make Christmas feel more like a season of chaos than cheer, of pressure rather than peace.

Pinterest and Instagram flood my screens with ideas for handmade decorations, impressive menus, and beautiful gifts that promise a happy Christmas for my family and friends. But as hard as I try to recreate these images in my own home, it never quite works out the way I hope. People disappoint, presents dissatisfy. And, as I strive to make Christmas perfect, my focus quickly shifts from Jesus to myself. I become selfish rather than selfless; filled with worry rather than wonder. So how can this year be different? What will help me hold on to joy in the midst of Christmas chaos?

I need to remember that true joy is found in Jesus alone – at Christmastime and always. He is the only one who can fully satisfy. He is the only one who will never disappoint. And he has come to us! He has come – God in the flesh – to dwell among us. He has come to deal with our sin and to reconcile us to the Father. My joy doesn’t rest in the perfect Christmas Day, but in the Emmanuel – God with us.

This is joy that can sustain me – not just through the holiday season, but in every season of life. And this is joy the world longs for, so I need to share it. My pursuit of the perfect Christmas often keeps my focus on myself, my family, and my friends. But Jesus has come to rescue sinners. So my focus should be on remembering and sharing him with others.

Here are three ways I plan to cultivate joy by keeping Jesus at the center of the season:

Reflect Jesus’ Humility

Philippians 2:5-8 reminds me that Jesus, the Prince of Heaven, came in humility. When I strive to create the perfect Christmas, I’m really seeking to draw attention to myself. I want to impress, but  Jesus teaches me to be humble. Although equal with God, he chose to make himself nothing by becoming a man and taking the nature of a servant (Phil. 2:7). Ultimately, he would demonstrate his humility by his willingness to die on a cross (Phil. 2:8). I struggle to lay aside my desire for a picture-perfect home and open it up to people who may leave it messy or dirty. He laid aside his home to make a perfect home for me eternity. I struggle to lay aside my desire for appreciation and praise. He laid aside his glory that I might one day share in it. I struggle to lay aside my desire for a quiet evening and invite my neighbors in for mulled wine and mince pies. Jesus laid down his life that I might receive eternal life (John 3:16).

When I’m tempted to make my own glory the goal of my holiday preparations, I need to remember Jesus’ humility. When I’m tempted to focus my efforts on those who can give something in return, I need to remember God’s mercy to undeserving sinners (Rom. 5:8). Rather than looking to others to serve me, I need to reflect Jesus’ humility by welcoming opportunities to serve my family, my neighbors, and my church family joyfully and sacrificially.

Remember Jesus Fulfills Our Deepest Need

It’s easy to give in to feelings of discontentment at Christmas time. Surrounded by advertisements for beautiful gifts, I sometimes find myself wanting things I don’t really need. I often feel pressure to find the perfect gift for those I love: the present that will provide the greatest pleasure or the gift that will give the greatest joy. But God has already given the greatest gift that could ever be given – he gave his Son. Jesus came to meet our deepest need. He came to rescue us from the grip of sin, death, and Satan. He came to give us eternal life. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Nothing compares to this. No gift I could give and no present I will receive. I need to remember that the greatest gift I can give anyone this Christmas is the gift of the gospel, the good news that eternal life and deep joy can be found in Jesus. So this year, as I seek out special gifts for those I love, I also want to seek out opportunities to share the greatest gift with my neighbors, with my hairdresser, with the postman, with the needy and vulnerable in my community.

Celebrate Jesus’ Gift of Eternal Joy

Christmas is a wonderful time to delight in the gifts God has given – family, friends, a warm home, good food. But as I enjoy them, I need to remember that even the sweetest gifts can’t bring true and lasting joy. Only Jesus can do that. He brings joy that lasts into eternity. Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Remembering that Jesus alone gives eternal joy frees me to enjoy my family, friends, and home without expecting them to fulfill my hopes for the perfect Christmas. It also frees me to open my home to people who don’t fit my picture of the ideal guest and  to give generously to those who can’t repay me. Additionally, it frees me to focus on how I can make the most of opportunities to share the gospel, even if that means missing out on other holiday treats. I can do these things joyfully because I know my joy is not dependent on, or limited to, this year’s holiday experience. I am guaranteed eternal joy in Jesus Christ alone.

This year I have more realistic hopes for Christmas. My home won’t be picture-perfect. I’ll likely forget to buy something and have to dash out to the shops on Christmas Eve. Family members may quarrel or grumble. I’ll let people down, and others will let me down. But my prayer is that as I will reorient my heart to Jesus and as I seek to share him with others will know true, and lasting, joy in Christ alone.