|When we try to follow the Wonderful Counselor, we learn|
the wisdom of His ways.
I love Christmas. I loved it as a child and I love it now. There was a time when I was a teenager that Christmas was not very exciting or magical. I needed to rediscover what Christmas meant.
I’m not sure exactly the age when I started to feel empty at Christmas, but I know it was when most of my siblings were gone and Santa was a distant memory. I didn’t have anything to look forward to, and my Christmas list became more and more expensive, therefore, less and less of my list appeared on Christmas morning. It’s not that I didn’t like Christmas, I just wasn’t looking forward to it like I once had. I felt empty.
I remember asking myself, ‘what’s wrong with me? I should be happy at Christmas.’ As the years passed and I matured, I started to understand the problem wasn’t that my desires weren’t being met. It’s that my desires were completely selfish. It’s not that my parents weren’t providing for me or loving me. The problem was that I was not loving others or helping others like I should. I was so focused on me that I forgot Christ in Christmas. I was celebrating “MEmas!”
I never stopped believing in Christ. So it’s not that I forgot the story behind Christmas and its origins. I knew Luke 2 well and could tell anyone what happened that incredible night in Bethlehem. So why was I not finding joy at Christmas?
A Son is Given
Like I said, the problem was that I was self-centered, not Christ-centered. And part of the problem was that I only looked forward to the presents. As a child, it seemed like anything was possible on Christmas. I could get anything. (I’m not sure why we don’t have that same feeling on our birthdays, but I think it might be because a magical man in a red suit isn’t giving us birthday presents, but I digress.)
I was missing the fact that the best gift ever given was the Christ child. I did not appreciate what his life and resurrection meant for mankind and our eternal salvation. I still don’t fully appreciate it, but if I understand it a little better each year, Christmas will always bring me joy.
Now I try to figure out something I can give to Him. He doesn’t need gold or precious oils. Christ wants a humble heart and willing mind.
Christmas no longer felt empty when I focused on making Christmas special for others. I think that’s part of why Christmas is fun for parents, because we are focused on doing something special for our kids. Because we are celebrating the Saviors birth and life, we should spend time doing what he would do; serving others, visiting the sick and helping those in need.
For the last couple years, we have put up a small manger in our living room. We tell the kids a story about a family that tries to make the manger soft for Jesus through service. In the story, the family would draw a family member’s name and try to do an act of service for that person. Each act of service let them put a straw in the manger. Then by Christmas, Jesus will have a soft bed to sleep in. We practice a modified version of this tradition. Our kids are still small, so we have to help them recognize opportunities to serve, so Catie and I just try to point out service opportunities. They are excited about making a soft bed for Jesus and now the service is natural. They forget to put in the straw most of the time.
The funny thing about helping others is that it helps the giver as well as the receiver. When I spend a couple hours at the food bank, I feel more grateful for what I have and more compassionate for those who need the food bank. When I take time to shovel someone’s driveway, I feel love joy in helping someone. When I call up someone I know is sick and ask how they are doing, I feel more gratitude for my health and compassion for a friend.
These acts and feelings bring us closer to Christ. When we try to follow the Wonderful Counselor’s example, we learn the wisdom of His ways.
The Prince of Peace
Now that I have peace and joy at Christmas (most of the time), I am trying to teach this to my kids. It’s not that Santa is a bad thing, we just try to downplay his role. We try to emphasis Christ’s story and why it’s important. We try to learn from his life and what he did. We spend time talking about the symbols of Christmas and how they can remind us of Christ.
I don’t want my kids to feel empty on Christmas. I believe the best way to do that is fill them with the best news the world has ever received.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
His life and love can fill us and our families with peace if we will learn of Him and follow Him. How you reach that goal in your family is up to you, but I do hope you make that the goal this year and every year.
Next week: Improving family relationships