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  • Rich Zeiger

Intentionally Christian Christmas

The Christmas season is in full swing, and you are probably feeling too busy even to read this. So am I. Maybe that should tell us something. I’m not going to suggest that we should all slow down and be less busy, though that is certainly true for most of us. Nor am going to take up Charlie Brown’s lament of commercialism corrupting Christmas, though the evidence pretty much speaks for itself. These are things we know, but most of us struggle to find the right balance to correct them. Instead, let me suggest this: make your Christmas intentionally Christian. I’m not talking about merely “keeping Christ in Christmas” or wearing a “Jesus is the reason for the season” button as you’re shopping. These are good things, but they are surface things. At best they impact culture. We need an impact on ourselves…on our souls. Making Christmas intentionally Christian is not about a “recapturing” of a nostalgic past; rather, it is being purposeful in using every part of our Christmastime to celebrate God With Us, to focus our hearts and minds not just on Christ’s coming but on the reason for His coming, and to use this holiday season to disciple ourselves and our families. An intentionally Christian Christmas is more about doing things purposefully for the glory of God than about the things themselves. By intentionally shifting my mindset to focus on my purpose, I transform whatever I may ordinarily do into something much more significant. We do a lot of things without much deliberate thought, whether by tradition or habit or cultural influence. Intentionality takes a bit more work, because it means I am now acting by choice instead of just reacting by instinct. Intentionality assesses the things I already do and evaluates the things I plan or want to do. For that reason it may indeed streamline some of my busyness as it reveals things that do not actually fit my intended purpose. I may decide that certain things I or my family have always done simply do not glorify Christ, so I choose to drop those things. Sometimes it may add things to my schedule, like perhaps attending a special church gathering I might otherwise skip. More often, intentionality can make the things we already do much more meaningful, both temporally and eternally. Use gift giving to teach your children about the nature of God’s love and gratitude. In our world, far too many children—and adults—have developed a general sense of entitlement and lack of true gratitude. How we approach gifts can go a long way toward discipling our children, giving them a fuller understanding of grace—getting what we don’t deserve and didn’t earn. Part of that is understanding the truth that, contrary to so many heart-tugging Christmas messages, no one actually deserves presents. Grace gives them, and gratitude appreciates them. Make your Christmas shopping intentionally Christian. Shopping, especially at Christmastime, can be an exhausting chore. People get cranky and rude. Workers are tired and stressed. By seeing my shopping as bigger than a mission to get the stuff on my list, and instead viewing it first—yes, first and foremost—as a mission to serve as Christ’s ambassador to that person behind the counter (or in the parking lot or taking the last one of that thing I came for), I turn a temptation toward a sinful attitude into an opportunity to live out the assignment Christ has given me. Making my Christmas shopping intentionally Christian means reflecting the reality of Christ through every one of those relationships, no matter how brief or exasperating. Those are two examples, but there are innumerably more. Use an Advent calendar not just to countdown to Christmas, but as a time of intentional family devotion by reading and discussing a scripture and praying together. At your gatherings, consider not only the guest list and menu; consider what you can do to demonstrate the love of Christ better to your guests. If you are attending parties, how can you be a gracious example of the character of Christ? As you sing carols, dress up, watch movies, or whatever you do, intentionally remind yourself of Who all of this is supposed to celebrate…and why He came. At its root, making your Christmas intentionally Christian is more a matter of why than of what. It is a matter of choosing to put more thought into the activities we use to celebrate the season. Why do we do this particular thing? Why do we visit grandma? Why should we give money to that homeless woman or to the man with the bell? Why does Santa come? Can elements of fantasy help us to celebrate the reality of God Incarnate, or do they obscure that reality? Though important, what we choose to do is often less significant than knowing why we choose to do it. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:31‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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