Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How to Have a Happy Christmas

How to Have a Happy Christmas


Headline news: Christmas is all about receiving a wonderful gift from God.

You may have received some terrible presents in your time. Come to that, you may have given some. But I hope you won’t be spending Christmas with the man who announced in his Christmas cards: 

This holiday season, in lieu of gifts, I’ve decided to give everyone my opinion.

Did you ever wonder why we give gifts at Christmas? We give gifts because God gave us the most precious gift possible: the gift of his Son. Each and every gift under the tree is a reminder of the greater gift that God has given to you and me.

And each expression of delight, surprise and happiness you hear on Christmas Day is just a glimpse of the joy and fulfilment that is promised to us if we experience that renewed relationship with God that Jesus came to bring.

But how do we receive the gift that God is giving us in Jesus?

Earlier we looked at the most famous verse in the Bible, which starts:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...

The verse concludes like this:

... that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It’s a gift that we don’t deserve. I hate it when people ignore me, or refuse to receive help from me, or are ungrateful when I do things for them. And yet we are all guilty of doing all those things to God. Not just occasionally, but repeatedly throughout our lives.

God has every reason to walk away, and leave us to ourselves. Christmas without him. Life without him. For ever without him—an eternity without rest or loving relationships. But he doesn’t. He freely offers us life... rescue... forgiveness... eternity.

He went to the most extraordinary lengths to reach out to us when we were far away. He paid the greatest price imaginable to bridge the gap between us—when we were his enemies. It is a gift we do not deserve, and yet he freely offers his Son to us, because he loves us.

So if we are to receive God’s gift of new life, we must receive it humbly—admitting to God our failure, and being truly grateful for his love.

It’s a gift we can’t earn. This may sound like a stupid thing to say, but gifts, by their very nature, are free! It would be crazy to imagine a child tearing the paper off a box under the Christmas tree to reveal a bike or an Xbox or a puppy, and then turning to their parents and asking, “How much do I owe you?” And yet this is just how many people think our relationship with God works.

We think that God will only accept us if we pay him—with our good works, or our church attendance or our morals or our mon- ey. But this is simply not true. God will accept us, not because we deserve it, but because Jesus earned it—by his perfect life, and his death for us. God will freely forgive us because of him.

If we are to receive God’s gift of new life, we must receive it gratefully—admitting that we cannot earn our way into friendship with God, and that Jesus has done everything necessary for our forgiveness.

It’s a gift we receive by trusting Jesus.

We receive God’s wonderful gift by believing in Jesus. 

... that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Not just by believing he exists and that he is real—which he is. Not just by believing that he is the Son of God sent into the world to rescue us—which he is. Not just by believing that he rose from the dead three days after he died, and is alive today—which he is. But by putting our trust in his death on the cross to make us right with God.

God is offering you the gift of new life in his Son. You can have a better Christmas if you relax and relate. But you will only have a truly joyful Christmas if you receive that precious gift from Jesus. He offers to be your Lord and rescuer as you enjoy real rest in they ups and downs of life, as you relate to him each day of your life.

Many people have found it helpful to talk to God about these things. They can trace the start of their new relationship with God from a time they said a prayer similar to the one on the next page.

You may not understand everything. You may even have doubts about whether God is really there. But if you respond to God’s offer of forgiveness through Christ, he promises to hear your prayer and answer it.

Why not say the words of this prayer out loud, or in the quietness of your heart, to the Lord who knows you and loves you and is listening now? 

Dear God
Thank you for Christmas time and for all the good things you have given to me.
Thank you for my friends and family and those who care for me.
Thank you for your great love in sending your Son, Jesus, to be born into the world.
I’m sorry that I have turned away from you and pushed you from your rightful place in my life.
Thank you that Jesus came and died so that I can be forgiven. Thank you that he rose again so that I can receive new life.
Help me to trust in Jesus and his death on the cross as the only way by which I can be right with you.
Please forgive me, and help me to grow and learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus.


If you have prayed this prayer and meant it, you can be sure that God has answered it.

Be sure to continue with these four things:

1. Relax: Becoming a Christian is about receiving God’s gift to you. Growing as a Christian goes along in the same way. Enjoy being able to talk to God as your Father. Relax in his presence as someone who has been forgiven and accepted through Jesus.

2. Relate: Talk to another Christian about the fact that you want to grow in your understanding of Jesus. They will help you. The church where you got this booklet would be a good place to start to make friends with others who have found forgiveness and a new relationship with God.

3. Reflect: Continue to find out more about what it means to be a genuine Christian. Read one of the biographies of Jesus in the Bible. Luke’s Gospel is a good place to start. It may raise more questions for you at first, but ask God to help you understand more about what it means to follow Jesus, and he will answer your prayer.

4. Go on receiving: God has so much more to give you as you follow Jesus day by day. He will help you understand more. He will help you change. He will help you to grow in your relationship with him as you pray, listen to his word, and meet with other Christians. Continue to open up your life to the heavenly Father, who loves you, and gave his Son for you. 

Content excerpted from How to Have a Happy Christmas by Tim Thornborough. ©2016 by Tim Thornborough. Used by permission of The Good Book Company, www.thegoodbook.com

Tim Thornborough is the Creative Director at The Good Book Company. He is series editor of Explore Bible-reading notes, and has contributed to many books published by The Good Book Company and others. He is married to Kathy and has three teenage daughters and a boy.

Image courtesy: Unsplash.com

Publication date: November 29, 2016