Note: This is the third article in our series on the socio-economic behaviors that lead to lives of fulfillment and financial security. To read the first two article in this series check out Does Generosity Lead to Happiness or Are Happy People Simply More Generous? and The Physical, Emotional and Financial Benefits of Thankfulness.
The Christmas season can be a stressful time for families. The additional expenses can create pressure on the family budget. Calendars filled with holiday parties can add to the stress. And challenging family dynamics in holiday get-togethers can put us over the edge during the holiday season. So we are returning to our socio-economic series this week to look at how we can get beyond the materialism and financial pressure of the Christmas season and have peace and joy in the midst of an ordinarily stressful month.
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
This famous line came from Charlie Brown when he shouted his frustration with all of the mixed messages he was hearing on the meaning of Christmas.
Nearly sixty years since “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was released, many different voices continue to tell us the meaning of Christmas. “The real meaning of Christmas is love”…“The Christmas message is that it is better to give than to receive”…“Christmas is the season to spend time with those you love.” Add in a few compelling Lexus commercials and a Hallmark movie and it’s no wonder why we, like Charlie Brown, may struggle to understand the “true” meaning of Christmas.
Fortunately for Charlie Brown, Linus came to the rescue towards the end of the movie when he read from the original Christmas story in the Bible. All of Charlie Brown’s angst and frustration were relieved when he learned the true meaning of Christmas, and the cartoon closed with peace on earth and joy around the Christmas dinner table.
When reading over the actual Christmas story in the Bible, it is interesting to note the circumstances surrounding the very first Christmas. While there was great joy with the angels singing and the shepherds praising God for what they had witnessed, there was also great strife and conflict surrounding the birth of Jesus.
The genealogy tells the story of a very troubled and oppressed nation, a marriage between Jesus’ parents that begins under suspect circumstances: a young woman with a potentially stained reputation, a husband struggling to understand what was really happening, and the intervention of some frightening angels that God sent to bring clarity to all the confusion.
Even after Jesus’ birth, the struggle continued with a difficult journey to escape a King who ordered a group of men to go and kill Jesus. While God could have chosen for Jesus to be born into pomp and circumstance, the actual circumstances were far from it! God chose the Savior of the world to be born as a helpless child, into a pretty traumatic situation.
This is a critical component of the Christmas message. All of us experience difficult times in life, but Jesus understands our suffering, because He himself was acquainted with suffering.
The True Meaning of Christmas
While presents and Hallmark movies may make the season nice, they fall short of the true joy that Christmas can bring. Christmas is a celebration of the fact that God loves us.
God loves us so much that He willingly sent his Son into this world so that we might have a relationship with Him.
That’s the true message of the Christmas story. God deeply loves us! And that’s a Christmas gift worth treasuring!
So how do we help our families move beyond the commercialism and the stress of the season to see the true meaning of Christmas?
We Recognize the Messiness in the Christmas Story
It’s easy to tell the story of the cute little baby born in a clean manger with fresh smelling farm animals and wise men bringing gifts. But that is not the most accurate depiction of what happened. Joseph and Mary were probably scared, young parents, being given this incredible responsibility to raise up the Savior of the World, who was most likely born in a manure-filled manger that was designed to birth farm animals. There’s no way Joseph and Mary could have fully comprehended what was actually happening.
As we think about sharing this story with our families, it is important to remember the challenges the characters in the story were facing. And the key message is this: in the midst of their difficult circumstances, they had joy. Because their hope was not in their circumstances, their hope was in God.
We Cultivate a Grateful Heart
We should be thankful for friends, for family, for our health, and the material blessings in life. Gratitude is a key component of living a joy-filled life, and thankfulness is an important part of the meaning of Christmas. But there is so much more to be thankful for when considering the true gift we have been given in the Christmas story.
About 800 years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Isaiah predicted that God would send his son into this world, and his name would be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” WOW! We can have a relationship with the God of the universe! While this is a difficult concept to fully comprehend, it is something to be thankful for.
Gratefulness shouldn’t be like the side salad before the main course at Christmas dinner, it should be the main course itself!
We Extend Grace and Forgiveness to our Friends and Family
While Christmas may encourage us to be a little nicer to those around us than we might be in other months of the year, it’s not about choosing to avoid negative emotions for a few weeks, it’s about truly extending forgiveness.
Demonstrate humility by asking forgiveness from those you have injured and be quick to forgive those who have injured you.
The miracle of the Christmas story is that Jesus made a way to God. Jesus made a way for us to receive God’s forgiveness and enter into a relationship with Him. When we celebrate Christmas, we can celebrate God‘s grace and forgiveness by forgiving others.
All families have a little junk in their closet. And Christmas time can bring out that junk. When we hold on to our past hurts and fail to forgive the people who have hurt us, we end up hurting ourselves and our family members. Extending and receiving forgiveness helps us make the connection between the holiday we celebrate, the forgiveness we are freely given, and the forgiveness we can extend to others.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year...” goes the song. But the meaning of Christmas can easily get lost in the midst of all the busyness.
When we focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and we recognize the magnitude of what God has done for us, we can pivot away from the materialism and the stress, and we can find peace and joy in the midst of the Christmas season.
We at Monotelo Advisors wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!