Are you celebrating Christ or just fulfilling expectations during this Christmas season?

By Denise George
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

During the Christmas season do you sometimes pause in the midst of the work, traffic and chaos and ask: “Am I truly celebrating Christ’s joyous birth or am I simply struggling to fulfill the expectations placed on me by others?” 

Year after year many of us take a deep breath, grit our teeth and jump into the Christmas frenzy trying hard to achieve the holiday expectations of others, believing our actions alone are responsible for making our loved ones happy. 

But by Dec. 26 we can be stressed, exhausted and deep in debt. In the United States today many believe Christmas has become less about celebrating Christ and more about fulfilling the oftentimes meaningless expectations of others.  

So how can we create a memorable and meaningful Christ-centered Christmas for our loved ones and avoid the struggle to simply fulfill expectations placed on us by others? We can:

Release ourselves from the struggle. In many homes money is tight, employed parents are already overworked and/or family members may be sick or charged with caring for the sick. Everyone has physical, financial, emotional and mental limitations. Recognize yours.

Set limits

Limit excessive gift-giving. We can buy fewer and less expensive gifts or plan a Christmas without material gifts, placing the primary focus on fellowship with loved ones and deeper spiritual growth. The money we would ordinarily spend on gifts we can donate to missions and to organizations that help the impoverished, the sick and the hungry. 

Simplify home decorations. We can save time and money when we keep Christmas décor simple and inexpensive. 

Rethink traveling during busy holidays where long delays, flight cancellations and dangerous roads are common. If travel has become a holiday habit and is no longer a meaningful personal/family experience make different arrangements.

Choose to give and attend fewer parties and functions. During the holidays we will attend more than three times as many social events as normal. We can carefully schedule our holiday calendar, choosing only the most enjoyable and meaningful functions for our family. Even though others may expect us it’s our choice to attend or not. 

Concentrate on the spiritual aspects of Christmas — the reason for the season: Jesus. We can use our precious holiday time to read Scripture, pray, worship as a family, deeply contemplate God’s love and grow closer to Christ while also teaching our children and grandchildren why we celebrate Christmas. 

As we try to bring Christ back into Christmas and as we struggle to stand strong in the midst of a whirlwind of seasonal expectations we have the freedom to make choices that both show love to friends and family and at the same time honor and share Christ.