What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Christmas? Stressful shopping trips to Target where you wait in line for 45 minutes with all the other parents who are similarly trying to check out with their kids’ toys? Staying up until the early hours of Christmas morning wrapping presents and stuffing stockings? Watching your children’s faces light up as they open the gifts they were hoping for? Going to what feels like a million Christmas parties at your office, your spouse’s office, your children’s school, your church, etc.? Visiting or hosting family members? The annual candle light church service? A beautiful spread of your favorite dishes at a large family dinner? A day or two off work? Watching Home Alone or White Christmas? Christmas trees? Snow? Carols? Santa Clause?
There is no doubt about it: Our society has commercialized Christmas. We are bombarded by advertisements, movies, songs, newspapers, and stores telling us what gifts to get our loved ones so they know how much we care, which dishes to prepare for Christmas dinner so our mothers-in-law will be impressed, the new outfits we need so that the whole family will coordinate for pictures, the latest Christmas trends on Pinterest so we can keep up with the other moms, how to host the best holiday party, and on and on and on.
Of course we know deep down that the true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of our Savior’s birth, but it is far too easy to get wrapped up in the innumerable distractions and stresses of the season that demand our attention and shift our focus off of the newborn King. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with most of the secular traditions that accompany the Christmas season; giving gifts our loved ones will enjoy, making gingerbread houses, celebrating with friends and family at parties and over special meals, and watching our favorite Christmas movies are all good things. The danger that we must guard against is letting these practices distract us from Jesus’ birth. It takes a lot of intentionality to do these things, but I recommend three strategies for keeping Christ the main focus of the Christmas season:
Firstly, forcing yourself to slow down can be so valuable. This season is a hectic, fast-paced, exhausting whirlwind every single year. The faster you go mentally and physically, the harder it is to slow down. Force yourself to. You don’t have to get to everything on your very long to-do list. You don’t have to go to every single holiday celebration. You don’t have to decorate every square inch of the house with garland, lights, and wreaths. The world won’t stop spinning if you take a breather, so allow yourself to do so. Slowing down will help prepare your mind to be able to focus on the Lord.
Once you have slowed down, focus your calmed mind and spirit on Jesus and His birth. Reading a daily Advent devotional can be extremely helpful in this endeavor. I personally think Desiring God’s Good News of Great Joy Advent meditations are wonderful, but there are many great options out there at your disposal. Reading these every day throughout the month of December will keep your focus on Jesus’ birth and make it less likely that you will be distracted by all the noise competing for your attention.
Lastly, try eliminating distractions by limiting time on all types of media – social, television, magazines, etc. You’ll still be exposed to advertisements because they are literally everywhere you go, but this may help drown out some of the noise. If you intentionally cut back on your media time, you will be less bombarded with the typical distractions of the season and, consequently, better able to remain focused on the true meaning of Christmas.
Over 2,000 years ago, God sent His one and only Son to save us even though we were in active rebellion against Him. He entered the world that He created in a humble state, and He demonstrated love in a way that changed the course of history and our eternity. This gift is infinitely better than anything we find wrapped under the tree on Christmas morning, and we must fight to remember that during this busy holiday season.