Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving is when my seasonal depression begins.
It’s not because I’ve lost a loved one, or because I find myself lonely for the upcoming holidays.
It’s because Black Friday marks the beginning of an onslaught of insatiable consumerism.
Surrounded by ads with giant sized bows on cars, people pushing each other aside for the hottest new toy, the tireless UPS drivers making rounds in my neighborhood, I’m continually reminded of how much Americans need more.
But I’m certain that we don’t.
As I watch people deplete their savings and go into debt buying things people don’t need out of a bizarre social and cultural obligation, I’m heavy hearted.
What if we celebrated Christmas in line with the Biblical narrative instead of how the culture dictates?
What if we celebrated Christmas as a sign, not of more consumption, but of a King who emptied himself of everything he had, so that the lowly could belong.
Here are four ways I’ve tried living into that.
Celebrate Christmas by Forgiving Debts
Jesus came proclaiming “the Year of the Lord’s Favor” ( Luke 4) or the Year of Jubilee. This described a ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’ celebrated every fifty years in the Law of Moses that required, debts to be forgiven, acquired land returned to the original owners and prisoners released from incarceration.
It was a time of a clean slate. It was a time of renewal.
How could you celebrate the clean slate Jesus’ arrival gave you?
I own a few rental properties. Each year after collecting the December rents I send one of my tenants their rent back in the form of a check. I attach a short note, letting them know that I follow Jesus and one of the ways I celebrate Christmas is this small act of redemption of their rent payment.
Maybe no one technically owes you money. But you can forgive ‘debts’ in other ways.
Gifting the neighbor, the tool he never returned or a note of forgiveness to the grudge you have held.
Who is indebted to you this year? And how can you set them free?
Debt got you living off mission? Download my debt pay off worksheet to pay it off quick!
Celebrate Christmas with NOT your people
The angels heralded Jesus’ coming proclaiming that they came with news that would be of “…great Joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)
Why then, do we always celebrate Christmas with only ‘Our’ people?
Jesus isn’t impressed.
“For if you love those who love you, what goodness do you have?… Even sinners do that.” (Luke 6:33)
The point of Jesus’ arrival was to unify the world into him. Yet we cloister with the people who will exchange gifts with us. We exclude instead of include.
One of my favorite Christmas’ on record, I had the opportunity to drive my kids to a house of a woman whom I knew to be a bit of a recluse.
It was 1pm and she was still in her pajamas, but she let us in and we dropped off a couple gifts, some much needed basic items, and visited with her for a while.
I felt full.
What if you looked for ways to celebrate Christmas with people who weren’t like you this year?
Drop some cookies off to your neighbors, visit the widow down the street, experience the customs of the immigrant population in your city.
Jesus’ arrival marks the inclusion of all people (Jew and Gentile) into the Kingdom of God.
This is a truth worth celebrating.
Celebrate Christmas by Giving to Those Who Can’t Repay You
How do we decide who we should buy a Christmas gift for this year?
We ask the question: Are they going to buy me a gift?
The picture of Jesus’ arrival on earth is not a call to repayment.
It’s a picture of astounding generosity, in that ‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8)
To celebrate Christmas on mission, doesn’t look like giving gifts to our people, but laying ourselves down to those who could never benefit us.
This may look like donating to a ministry like “Project Angel Tree” or dropping off toys at a toy drive.
Do you know families in your neighborhood, your church or your workplace that could never afford to return the favor?
What about the waitress at the restaurant, the package carrier in your drive way, the guys loading up your empty boxes into the recycling truck?
For many, Christmas is an exchange of economic value.
I buy you a gift, you buy me one of approximate value.
What if the way we celebrate Christmas began to look like the astounding generosity of Jesus’ arrival?
Celebrate Christmas by Practicing True Hospitality
Many consider themselves hospitable if they take turns going to dinner and hosting dinners with their friends.
This isn’t hospitality. This is reciprocity.
Hospitality is the act of ‘setting the table’.
It’s the act of inviting in.
When we welcome those who are otherwise unwelcome we lean into the mission of making disciples of ‘all nations’. Discipleship, begins with relationship. Relationship begins with proximity.
Cloistering with our family professes the exclusiveness of our savior’s arrival. “Jesus came for me” instead of “Jesus came for all”
How big is your table?
Is every seat filled?
Holidays are a stressful time.
Politics split families, old wounds resurface, and your budget strains under the search for the ‘perfect’ gift.
Maybe you don’t have a lot extra, or you’re not a Martha Stewart host.
If you follow Jesus, he calls you on mission. On a mission of making disciples of all nations, displacing darkness, and lifting up the name of Jesus.
This Christmas will you celebrate what Jesus has done and is doing? Or will you celebrate what retailers and grocers are pushing?
I won’t pretend in one year you can completely revamp your holiday repertoire.
But maybe this year you could lean. Maybe this year you could make it a point to try and celebrate Christmas on mission.