Christmas is supposed to be this grand, happy holiday season. But for many, it is not. Grief weighs heavier than at other times of year. Expectations run high and nearly always fall short of our imagined goals. Money is tight for so many, and gift giving brings stress, whether there is money to pay for them or not. There are so many things on our to-do lists that we can barely keep up, and when we try, we exhaust ourselves. And I wonder if maybe all this busyness, this distraction, doesn't keep us from focusing on the better things. Things like loving the people in our lives, and more importantly, loving Jesus whose birth it is we celebrate.
Jesus was once asked about the greatest commandment. His answer: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In other passages, Jesus links love for God to obedience and by getting to know Him. How do we know Him? By spending time with Him, just as we would any other friend. If you have access to a Bible this season, pick it up and just read. Try reading the entire gospel of Luke in one sitting. You will learn a lot about this Man in the process, and even get a glimpse of the very first Christmas.
In the second part of that verse, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor - Jesus later defines neighbors to mean everyone from friends to strangers. But sometimes the biggest strangers are the people in our own families. How much money would you give to have those relationships on good terms if they are currently broken? Would you risk rejection to tell someone how proud you are of them or how much you appreciate them?
It doesn't take money to show love to those we care about. It might take time and energy, though. And it might take the willingness to give emotionally more than monetarily. If we don't have the finances, do we at least have the time?
What are some ways we can creatively love this Christmas? If you have no money for gifts, do you have paper? Can you draw a picture or weave a poem or write a paragraph telling your loved one how much they mean to you? If there is no paper, can you speak or sing? A smile, a thank you, or a comment of "I appreciate you so much," or "I'm proud of you because..." will mean more to the receiver than anything you can purchase from a store. Guaranteed!
Is your loved one grieving a loss? Perhaps a listening ear will help through these very tough times. Or perhaps the greatest gift will be the gift of space - don't make them feel like they should act normal - and simply pray and love them from afar.
When our boys were young, I cherished the days I had with them at home. I never wanted to wish away a single moment because I knew how fleeting childhood could be. Now they are adults and we live far apart. The only time we are all together as a family is this season, once a year. I never expected long distance to separate us like this, but it has. So I cherish the time we do have. And I don't take one minute for granted. I look for ways to love while I can.
I once heard a speaker suggest that we love creatively. What does that look like to you? I would love to hear your suggestions.
Someday, when my family hunts through the things I've saved, they will find that their handwritten notes are among the most cherished, perhaps because they are the most rare. I used to write birthday poems to my boys when they were small. Perhaps I need to consider such things again.
Love doesn't have to come in material packages. Nor does it come in the form of gluttonous feasts. Love came in the form of a baby, and grew up to be a man who gave us Himself in one selfless, sacrificial act of love. All so that we could be with Him where He is. Kind of like how we want our families to be together - He brought us grace so that such a reunion could be possible, not just on earth, but also with Him and His Father in Heaven.
"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Instead of laying down our bank accounts this Christmas, why not lay down our expectations and creatively love those God puts in our path?
May God bless you and yours this Christmas~