How to Faithfully Celebrate Christmas in a World of Materialism

How to Faithfully Celebrate Christmas in a World of Materialism

In a rhythm beyond our orchestration, the Christmas season returns. As someone who enjoys bundling up, playing carols, and anticipating the wonder of snow, Christmas arrives in my heart like an invitation. Each year I dream of lighting a single candle and creating a space of clarity and calm. Instead of being thrilled with joy that should quicken my step, I begin figuratively digging in my heels. I feel a smoldering desire to ditch distraction and accept the offer: to give the kinds of gifts Jesus would.

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Can my heart rediscover what Christmas means?

Can my heart rediscover what Christmas means?

I can’t discern whether the headphones, gadgets, and gaggles of hastily purchased and covered presents are the best of human intention, or a symptom of misplaced attention. Cards, decorations, and candy lunge from screens and shelves. Calendars crest with commitments.

Yet, just as constant, is the returning option to renew my perspective. To see if this Christmas, I can manifest any of the gifts it intends to encourage.

It’s not that I feel grouchy. Rather, I feel pulled to the humble advent of a King like no other. To the way an incomprehensible power poured itself into a living example of love. And how that gift continues to give, every day. It’s something I don’t want to miss in the mirage of must-dos and must-haves that creep their way into my anxious response to the day we should celebrate what we already have.

I’ve always loved how the Grinch nailed it in his famous revelation: Christmas comes without packages, boxes, or bags. With classic innocence, the green and wide-eyed disciple observes, “What if Christmas doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

So, as I count down the days, and naturally fail at creating awe in my teenage and adult children’s souls, I want to make a short list.

Here are four ways to be a bit more faithful to the giving season.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Annie Spratt

1. Choose love.

1. Choose love.

One of the greatest gifts, I believe, that God wove into each of us is the freedom to choose. Rejecting or accepting, judging or understanding, hating or loving. Minute by minute, we can act in ways we’re unfortunately designed to, or we can reach for a reaction we’re drawn to.

Jesus knew the attraction that touching the untouchable would have on passersby. He knew where those who felt unloved were hiding. He didn’t wait for the perfect bed, a perfect people, or worldly prosperity. He came when we didn’t deserve it, and even when we didn’t know how to accept it. He came as love. He calls us to give it our best shot at doing likewise. And although it could, it doesn’t have to come in a package.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, I will no doubt have run-ins with family or strangers that are gifts in disguise. I’ll know when the feeling bubbles up inside. It may feel like impatience, anger, fear, righteousness, or a readiness to retaliate. I don’t want to forgo that moment in which I could choose what love would do. Because if I can choose to offer love instead of judgment, a hug instead of hurry, a sacrifice of attention instead of selfishness, I will be blessed as well.

But the better gift is knowing that because I can choose to love, someone else will feel God’s love, too. 

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2. Offer grace.

2. Offer grace.

We may not know it, or speak it, but who doesn’t want some forgiveness? Is there any one of us who hasn’t been a meanie, impatient, even a tiny bit self-centered, or just downright hurtful? What would it feel like to be given the gift of words or gestures that casts any injury you may have caused as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)?

Is there someone you can do that for this Christmas?

It’s fascinating how Jesus loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) even, or maybe especially, when the cheer feels costly. Because in actions of forgiveness, it’s tempting to sow sparingly. Yet when you are not reluctant, and you sow grace bountifully, heaven knows you will reap.

If you don’t know how to take the first step, just ask God to reveal it to you. Ask him to create the moment in which you can faithfully give a gift created by Him.

Photo Credit: © Dawson

3. Create peace.

3. Create peace.

It’s not silly to me, this vision of one candle on the floor of my front room; my family sitting peacefully in silent appreciation of an evening together. It’s also not going to happen. Nor will I force it.

To me, the single candle is more something I will instead light in my own heart, focusing on its ability to center my behavior. I want, although it would surely be counterproductive, to minimize my errands and mastermind dinnertime dates together, walks in the cold night air, and all sorts of havens that paint my picture of peace.

The truth is, everyone finds peace in their own signature ways. So likely the best gift any of us can offer to create peace in our homes and families is to make sure we ask, “what brings you peace?” Or, “when you’re home from school or work this break, what could I do that would give you peace? Because that’s one of the greatest gifts Christ intended us to enjoy.

Read John 14:27 (NLT) and rest assured: the peace Jesus gives is a gift the world cannot give. We simply receive it and rest in it.

To boot, if there are things that bring you peace, don’t feel guilty about doing them. Even if, for me, it means waiting to run the vacuum until my kids aren’t home.

When I become more peaceful, I become a source of peace to others.

Photo Credit: Dawson

4. Give hope.

4. Give hope.

I don’t know why, but I feel like Christmas has been overcomplicated for so long that the cacophony we create crowds out the hope it stands for. I feel for all of us humans, it’s enticing to gauge our values on what we can buy. I do feel bad for saying this; it’s just I’m hoping that if you’ve felt it, too, it may give you hope.

You’re not crazy; and that longing you feel beyond any possessions you own, is there to attach you to your Creator.

I do love that Christmas tends to shine a light on how we can share our abundance with others. I want to make sure, however, that when or if I donate, pack a shoebox, serve the homeless, or serve a meal in my home, that I listen for where someone may need words of encouragement. Because dropping off, scooping, packing, and sending may, or may not, create hope. Certainly, if we prayerfully dedicate every action we take in these efforts, to God’s will – then it will.

I once heard a radio show telling a story about Mother Teresa. The host said he was offering her access to the airwaves to tell people about how to donate to her ministry; asking what they could do to spread the word. As I recall, Mother Teresa replied that she didn’t want the money or publicity.

Instead, Mother Teresa asked: If you want to know how you can help, come in person, in the middle of the night, into the streets with me, and convince someone that they are not alone.

Do you know anyone in your circle of influence who may be feeling alone? Desperate? Sad this season? I know I do. I want to be sure some things drop off my to-do list if I’ve not made time to listen to their hurt. Then in a humbly imperfect way, to offer hope.

Do you by chance have four to-dos on your list that could be replaced with any of these? Or, may I encourage you to just try one? Seek a moment you can sink your whole self into. Look for where you can give in a way that may garner no accolades or thanks. But that you know is faithful. It will surely be given in the Christmas Spirit of the One who gave it all.

Lia Martin is a Faith Editor at and author of Wisdom at Wit’s End: Abandoning Supermom Myths in Search of Supernatural Peace.

Photo Credit: Dawson

This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!

What is Christmas? Understanding History, Origin and Traditions
Christmas Eve History and Traditions
The History of Santa Claus: Origin of St. Nicholas & Christmas Traditions
The Birth of Jesus: Bible Story and Scripture Verses
Why Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh Were Given to Baby Jesus
What is Advent: Definition & Meaning Behind Christmas Tradition