How Did You Celebrate Christmas? By Wes Willmer and Micah Hogan
Does God care how you celebrated Christmas?
Christmas is almost all over now— except for the January blues of paying the bills. How did you do? How did you survive all the rushed shopping, social events, delayed shipping, and gift returns? For most of us, our Christmas celebrations end up being dominated by stuff, you could say we have been “stuffocated.” In this eCommerce world, over a billion dollars worth of holiday stuff is returned in the first week of January!
Missing the Meaning
When Christmas comes around, we find ourselves so caught up in stuff we can easily forget about what truly matters— forming our souls for eternity by living in light of God’s Kingdom. When we allow our celebration of Christmas to become co-opted by a culture of materialism and greed, we are likely to miss the true meaning of Christmas, the Word made flesh in Jesus. In short, an undue focus on stuff makes our lives become more about doing than simply being.
What Would Jesus Do?
What would it look like to celebrate Christmas in a way that looks like Jesus? How could we celebrate Christmas in a way that forms our souls for eternity? For one thing, we can start taking the focus off of stuff by giving to ministries and to those in need. In Charles Dickens’ famous story, A Christmas Carol, one way we see Ebenezer Scrooge’s radical transformation is by how generous he becomes towards a local charity. After all, remember Jesus’s instructions:
When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:12-14, NKJV).
The Radical Way
When we celebrate, Jesus invites us into a radical way of making our guest lists: instead of thinking about cost and the chance to recuperate expenses, forget about it and invite the people who don’t have a cent! Wow, these words of Jesus are really tough! But living in this way is essential to mastering the proper connection between temporal stuff and our eternal soul. Don’t invite the rich, invite the poor and invite the maimed, invite the lame and the blind. When we forget about earthly repayment we will then receive a heavenly repayment. When we are free from the bondage our stuff we prepare our souls to receive the riches of eternity.
When we celebrate Christmas, we should seek to embody Jesus’s radical values of kingdom hospitality to those who can’t pay us back. Instead of seeking to exchange gifts, seek to truly give without thought for earthly repayment. Many ministries nowadays allow people to make a donation in someone else’s name. This can be a great way to form our own souls in love for our neighbors, while in the process also roping our loved ones into the good cheer and holy mischief of generosity.
Mastering Stuff and Soul
So let’s start early in mastering the stuff and soul connection for next Christmas: make a plan to take the focus off of stuff and put it on the soul, focusing on being rather than doing. Plan to give secretly and joyfully to those who can’t repay you. Form your soul in light of God’s love, and so make your next Christmas a truly merry one.
Wes Willmer, Ph.D. CCNL is the principal of the Wes Willmer Group. He has served ministries in their fundraising efforts for over five decades. Wes also serves on the Christian Leadership Alliance Advisory Council.
Micah Hogan is a recent graduate of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University pursuing his Masters of Divinity from Nashotah House Theological Seminary as an aspirant for holy orders in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). He is the theology editor at The PQ Review, and is primarily interested in the ways that desire, nature, and grace intersect in the person of Jesus Christ..
Learn more about forming your soul for eternity in Wes Willmer and Micah Hogan’s new book: Stuff and Soul: Mastering the Critical Connection.
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