Embracing the Beauty of Christmastime
By MANDY SAELER
When the world outside our window is covered with newly fallen snow, there is a special beauty in those first moments of peering out and taking in the sight. For just a little while, our world feels more like a snow globe scene than our own reality, and we can freshly grasp why it’s often been said that the snow was intended to slow us down. Somehow, the snow seems to invite us to stay home for the day, quiet the noise of our busy lives, and gather together with the ones we hold dear.
A couple of years ago, I heard about an older couple who enjoyed riding through the snow each year in the wooden sleigh they owned. On these rides, they hitch up their horses and venture out beyond the roads and houses to the countryside. Beneath winter’s sparkling blanket, nature is fast asleep and the flurry of normal life is stilled. This couple says that the beauty of sleigh riding is being surrounded by the silence of the snow. In those quiet moments, it seems that the snow is sent to slow us down and lead us back to simplicity.
While snow globe scenes and horse-drawn sleigh rides are whimsical notions for many of us, the invitation of the snow can lead us to remember the invitation that the season of Christmas extends to us. In the swirl of gift wrap, Christmas cards, and holiday gatherings, we are invited to step away from the normal rhythm of life and step into cherishing the season, embracing our loved ones, and most of all, celebrating the arrival of our Savior so long ago!
While the Christmas season and celebrations may look different from one believer to the next, it is my hope and prayer that this article will encourage you as you seek to shape a Christ-centered, bursting-at-the-seams-beautiful holiday season! (And hopefully it will provide you with some inspirational fuel, too!)
Consider this little column your seven o’clock evening invitation to my little Main Street apartment. I’ll bake apples drizzled with cinnamon sauce, put on a pot of coffee, and turn on the white twinkle lights. As we spend this time together, I want to share with you a few of the ways I’ve learned to sow deeper beauty and meaning throughout the Christmas season in my own life and in my relationships with others. And together, we’ll set Christ first in this holiday season!
As twenty-first century Christians, we are well-aware of the burgeoning commercialization of the Christmas season and the potential distractions this can raise for each one of us. It’s true that we must take necessary measures to protect the sacredness of this season. And at the same time, we must also remember to live with intentionality and actively nurture what is good, lovely, and praiseworthy in our lives and homes! (See Philippians 4:8 and Romans 12:21.) In other words, we must be careful to not trade out celebration for cynicism. And while we guard our hearts, we must also remember to flood our hearts with the truth we celebrate at Christmastime! With hearts centered upon Christ, this truly can be the most wonderful time of the year!
Here are some simple ways we can saturate our hearts with the beauty and joy of the Gospel this Christmas!
Read the Christmas Story Often
Keep the biblical accounts of Christ’s coming fresh upon your heart and ask God for insight into this familiar story. As you read and re-read the Christmas story throughout the holiday season, take time to observe different nuances you may not have noticed before. (e.g. Mary’s responses to Christ throughout His lifetime, the delight of the shepherds, the worship of the wise men opening their treasure and presenting gifts, the behavior of the world and Pharisees toward Jesus contrasted with the weak and needy, etc.) And dive even deeper into the Christmas story using the study tips found in the Sweeter Than Honey Bible study.
Learn About Christ’s Lineage & Old Testament Prophecies
For an incredible study of Christ’s bloodline, listen to the sermon, “Lineage of Majesty,” by Eric Ludy, and also watch the short films, “He Is” and “Lineage of Majesty.” These are amazing resources that will draw your heart to worship your God!
To gain an enlightening perspective on the authority of God’s Word and the Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled through Jesus Christ, listen to the 3-part sermon series “Canon” by Eric Ludy. The truth in these sermons has the power to bolster your faith and change your life.
Play Beautiful, Christ-Centered Christmas Music
This is a simple way to herald truth in your heart and home throughout the Christmas season. Build a playlist of your favorite Christmas songs, savor the words, and adopt them as your own grateful songs about what God has done!
Rejoice in Truth
Drawing parallels of truth in the midst of everyday-doings is something I enjoy practicing as a way of keeping my heart centered on Christ. Especially at Christmastime, as we are surrounded with so many symbolic traditions, finding these parallels can be like walking through a treasure trove of truth!
For instance, when we cut out sugar cookies, we can reflect on the Christ-centered symbolism of the shapes — pine trees, candy canes, candles, stars, and more. (If you are baking with family members or children, talk about the meanings of these things together!) Or as we string lights on our Christmas tree and place candles on window sills, we can reflect on the reality that Christ came and was the Light of the world! We can meditate on light’s effect on darkness, Christ’s effect on this world, and the change that His light has made in our own souls.
Sowing the golden thread of truth all throughout the traditions of the holiday season is a beautiful way of “seeing” Christ in everything and celebrating God’s love! (See Psalm 1:2-3.) Remember that cultivating a Christ-centered Christmas season comes in packages of all shapes and sizes! So step out and get creative in the ways you fill your heart and vision with the true meaning of Christmas!
The Christmas season opens doors for good tidings to be shared! Whether with those closest to us, the UPS driver delivering Christmas packages, or the carolers that arrive at our front door — at this time of year, people are uniquely open to receiving warmth and kindness from others! As we have received the ultimate “warmth and kindness” through Christ, may we make the very most of the opportunities before us to share that love.
Treasure Loved Ones
Purpose to be present with your loved ones this year. As you bake treats or prepare your home for hosting a holiday gathering — think upon them. Pray for them, remember their virtues (despite your differences and challenges), and reflect on the special memories you share with them.
Consider the ways you can purpose to treasure the people in your life this Christmas. Make a short bullet list of goals or even map out specific measures you’ll take to focus your heart and attention. (For instance, maybe you will aim to capture 10 meaningful photos throughout the holiday season for your personal memory album. Or perhaps you’ll choose to fast from social media the week of Christmas in order to be fully present.) During this holiday season, may our loved ones know that they have our time, attention, and affection.
Cultivate Deeper Conversation
A few years ago, I was in charge of coming up with an activity for a Christmas party. Based on a dinner party game I’d been introduced to in the past, I gathered about 15 questions that would help facilitate fun and meaningful conversations as we gathered together.
I wrote the questions/conversation starters out on pieces of Christmas gift-wrap (on the white side) and then folded them. Throughout the dessert time, everyone took turns drawing the slips from a bowl and then shared their question and answer. Though simple, it proved to be a sweet way of sharing meaningful conversation around the table.
Here are some examples:
- What Christ-centered holiday tradition is the most meaningful to you?
- What Christmas song/carol do you most look forward to singing and why?
- Share a special Christmas memory from your childhood.
Are there ways you can cultivate meaningful conversations with those around you? Whether at a family gathering, or with a handful of co-workers, think about how you can help spark deeper conversations. (You can even store a few go-to questions in the back of your mind to pull out when the opportunity arises!) Conversing with others and asking unique questions shows that you are interested in their lives and genuinely care about them. Sharing in meaningful conversation will also often give you the opportunity to share the joy in your heart this Christmas, and why it truly is the happiest season of all!
Give Meaningful Gifts
Think of the best gifts you’ve received in years past. What was it about those gifts that made them “the best”? Was it that someone remembered a detail you mentioned in a casual conversation months ago? Or took note of one of your unique interests?
When you are with your loved ones throughout the year, remember to be attentive. Observe them, listen when they speak, and ask intentional questions. (If it helps, take time later to write down the things that stood out!) When it comes time for gift-giving, those details can be a great source of inspiration!
As you set out on your gift-search this year, remember that God is the best gift-giver and start with prayer! Specifically pray for the individuals you are shopping for, and ask God for wisdom and specific guidance as you seek to bless them. (And then be on the watch for the beautiful ways you’ll see God’s fingerprints!) Giving your loved ones meaningful gifts that “speak the language of their heart” is a significant way of making them feel seen, known, and loved — and who better to lead you in this than God Himself!
Add Flourish to Your Holiday Greetings
Being a long-time fan of letter-writing and beautiful stationery, I love the whole Christmas card experience! From searching for the just-right cards and buying holiday stamps, to writing choice words and addressing envelopes — all the way down to taking the envelopes to my mailbox and sticking the flag up! And best of all is the thought of the cards arriving to the homes of my loved ones — my hope is that they feel warmly remembered and genuinely loved!
When you sit down to write Christmas cards this year, think about ways you can add some flourish to your holiday greetings! Share a special memory you have with the person, something you appreciate about them, or why you count them as a blessing in your life. Or you can share what you treasure about the holiday season, or something you are looking forward to in the new year! While it takes time to add personalization to each card (even if just a sentence or two), remember that the love you share will mean so much!
Sharing in deeper conversation, giving meaningful gifts, and writing Christmas cards to the special people in my life are all things that I cherish. But what about you? Cherishing the Christmas season will look slightly different for each one of us. I’ve detailed these areas because they are what come naturally to me — but consider what God has gifted you with and how He stirs your heart. Think of creative ways that you can minister with the gifts He’s given you to bring the refreshing beauty of Christ’s love into your holiday season!
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Whether your Christmas is spent far away from family, or nestled in your childhood home with those you hold dear — remember to embrace the sacred invitation of the holiday season to still the noise, cherish the Gospel, and love those around you.
May your days be merry and bright as you whole-heartedly celebrate our King who came — and is coming again!