I’m not sorry for the click-bait title. For nearly all of 2020, we have been marching to the monotonous beat of the COVID drum. In no way do we ever want to minimize the lives that have been impacted by it (both through death and mental health decline), but can we not all agree that we need a constant dose of perspective this Christmas?
Negativity has been spreading faster than a California wildfire this year and with numerous states doing all they can to cancel Christmas, Christians need to push back with power that no government can ever shake. Simply put: we need to remember that we are a people of hope!
Will you get the virus? Are you going to be reported for celebrating Jesus with family around your dinner table? Has your church tried to walk down the middle of the road politically only to be run over? How are you going to overcoming crippling fears? Is high blood pressure your new “normal” because you watch too much news? Do negative thoughts invade your peace of mind daily?
When we Christians are struggling with negative thoughts, we change our minds! That’s part of the privilege of having the Holy Spirit living inside of us. We aren’t in bondage to emotions. The news isn’t the final word. No power of hell or fear can keep us from accessing the unbridled peace that God supplies. Joy, praise, and hope are not hard to come by for the Christians. Paul reminds us all:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”(Philippians 4:8-9 NASB)
While the world goes crazy over covid and debates roar over vaccines, masks, and government mandates, Christians should be the most positive people because our hope isn’t wrapped up in this world. If I get the virus, heaven is still coming. If the government persecutes me, my Judge will execute eternal justice. If the anti-Christ builds his kingdom, I belong to a greater one to come. If we have more or less presents this year, I have the greatest gift of all. It doesn’t matter what the culture commands. All that matters is wrapped up in Christ.
With so much negative news circling our minds, here are 4 ways you can test “positive” this Christmas:
1. Dump Santa and Focus on the Savior
Are we ready to quit wasting so much time and energy on distractions that pull our eyes away from the real meaning of Christmas? American evangelicals have long mixed in a quart of cultural sugar with their Christmas traditions, and by-and-large it’s been relatively harmless. Or has it? Our only good reason for fighting against this reality tends to be, “You legalist!” Only to eventually wonder why our homes become empty shells of materialism — high on presents but low on peace. That’s what Santa, Elf on the Shelf, and every other cultural form of Christmas tradition will eventually do. They erode our worship and undermine our sole affection for Christ during Christmas. It’s still there, but less of it remains when Jesus is just another part of our Yuletide menu. But everything else fails to do what Christ can. Your kids don’t need a fat man in a red suit to increase their joy. You don’t need more booze and an elf on your shelf to find mental relief this Christmas. Need positivity? Need hope? Need answers? Look to the Savior.
Practical Steps: Start reading more Children’s books about Jesus’s birth and stop adding in worldly ones. Start talking more about the facts surrounding Jesus’ birth and less about the “naughty or nice list.” Start scheduling family worship and devotional time slots together, and stop letting the high pace of consumerism drive your agenda.
2. Less Worry and More Worship
The reason we can wreak of negativity during seasons like this is that we spend more time worrying about things we can’t control, and less time worshipping the God who is in control. The news takes over our minds — especially with election results pounding the airwaves. Then there are financial burdens, pressures to keep up with consumerism, and questions about family dynamics. Next thing you know, worry is rising and worship is fading. You can roll your eyes at this Christianese cliche but it rings as true as ever: Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season. If that doesn’t resonate with you, it may be that you have lost perspective on what”God in a manger” means for your soul. John MacArthur summarizes Christmas in a way that propels our worship forward saying, “If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: ‘God with us.’ We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”
Practical Steps: Turn off the news and turn on music that lifts the name of Jesus. Stop going through the motions each day and start scheduling prayer slots to give anxieties to Christ (1 Peter 5:7). Avoid people who gossip, slander, and complain to you. Lean into people who talk about Jesus, eternal perspective, and encourage you.
3. Less Greed and More Gratitude
Christmas fuels our ego or crushes it. Think about how you feel when there is a six-foot radius of presents around the tree. Now, think about how you feel when there is little more than a box or two underneath. Even though neither has any impact on your soul, the number of gifts we get or give can impact our self-worth. You might be testing “negative” this year because you’ve attached the value of Christmas to all the wrong things. Consumerism is killing the real meaning of Christmas. But now think about this: If you have nothing under your tree but Christ has saved your soul, you possess the most lavish blessings universal history will ever know (Ephesians 1:3). Push back against greed by praising God with gratitude. Thank Him daily for the gift that matters most. Talk about His mercy and grace around the dining room table, on the living room floor, or in the car while you peruse neighbor lights.
Practical Steps: Refuse to buy things on impulse or because coupons offer discounts on items you don’t even need. Reject credit card debt. Request limits on gift amounts from friends and family who buy way more than your kids need or use. Remind Grandpa or Grandma that their grandkids love them because they spend time with them, not because they spend money on them.
Based on what the Bible promises and how faithful God continues to be in the lives of His people, putting these things into practice during Christmas — and, beyond — is guaranteed to increase “positive” tests (spiritually speaking). When your faith is tested, what results? When the pains of life penetrate your heart, what do they draw out?
For the true Christian who has been transformed by the gospel, you can experience lasting joy this Christmas knowing that the testing of your faith always produces a positive result (James 1:2-4).