For many people, the Christmas season can become everything it’s not intended to be. We get caught up in the material giving. We become stressed by all the hustle and bustle. We feel guilty about what we can’t afford to do, and anxious about what to give to who. This Christmas season, change up the game with some spiritual presents that can help you get in touch with the Peace and the Love the season should be all about. Here are a few ideas …
1. PERFORM SOME RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS. Do something special, nice, important, or even trivial for someone you care for or someone you don’t even know. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway, pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the drive through, leave an old winter coat for someone who needs it…the possibilities are endless. But, here’s the trick. Don’t tell them about it. Don’t brag about it. Don’t let them know it was you. Anonymity gives the event a bigger air of magic, and you get the gift of humility in return.
2. TELL SOMEONE WHAT THEY MEAN TO YOU. We hear this one a lot, but do we ever actually do it? When was the last time you told someone how much you care for them or how their presence in your life has made a difference? It could be someone close to you — a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a mentor. It could be an acquaintance — a co-worker, a teacher, your mail carrier, or the guy at the grocery store. Too often we hurtle through our lives never taking the time or opportunity to tell someone that they have made a difference, that they are special to you, or that you love them. Too often expressions such as these are uncomfortable or embarrassing or seem unnecessary. We worry that we may come off weird, or overly sentimental, or strange. But, think about how you would feel if someone came to you and said: “Thank you so much for being in my life, you’ve really made a difference and I love you for it.” It would feel pretty good. Give someone that gift this season. Give yourself that gift. Face to face is best, but an email or a letter will do as well. Nothing is more true than the fact that life is short. Don’t miss your chance.
3. UNBURDEN YOUR HEART. This gift is for you. As we go through life, we all say, do, neglect to do, or have done to us, things that we end up being ashamed, scared, embarrassed, or sorry about. Additionally, maybe there is something about us that we are struggling with and feel we can’t share with anyone else because it is too personal or we fear that if anyone knew they would judge us harshly. All of these things become our dark secrets that we bury deep inside hoping they will go away if we only ignore them and deny their existence long enough. The only problem is, instead of disappearing, these secrets continue to burn away like acid on our soul. This season, confess your secrets and set yourself free. Here’s a simple 1-2-3 process. 1. Confess your secrets to yourself. 2. Confess them to God. 3. Find a trusted friend or confidant (someone who won’t be harmed by your story), ask them if they will listen, and confess to them. Confessing to yourself puts an end to the rationalization, denial, and avoidance that fuel our secrets. Confessing to God (although he knows the whole story already) makes it take shape in your heart and welcomes the Heavenly Father to the table. Confessing to a friend makes it real and not just something endlessly swirling around in your head anymore. There may not be any resolution to the matter, but the very act of confession will drag your secret into the light and diminish its power over you. You’ll be giving yourself the gift of a lighter heart and a healthier soul.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James (5:16)
- GIVE YOUR TIME. It’s often said that there is no more important gift you can give someone than the gift of your time. Forget the sweaters and the video games and the gift cards, what people really want is to be with you. Not just the dash-in/dash-out you. Not the one-eye-on-the-cellphone you. Not the watching-TV you. They want the 100%-with-them you. So give someone the one gift they desire most, give them your time. Have coffee with an old friend, take your little brother to the movies, read a book to a child, make dinner with your grandparents. It doesn’t really matter what you do, just spend your time doing it.
- FORGIVE SOMEONE. Admittedly this is a tough one. It’s difficult to forgive people who have wronged us or who have hurt us deeply. NOT forgiving someone sentences you to carrying the hurt and the offenders around in your head and your heart all the time and condemns you to living in the pain of the past. But let’s make it easy. God commands us to forgive. Not obeying His desire separates us from His love and mercy. So it’s best for us to be obedient. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone what was done to you. It doesn’t mean that you are backing down and being a doormat. It simply means that you are giving it to God. Forgiveness demonstrates that your heart is bigger than the event or the person or the pain. Forgiveness demonstrates that you trust in God’s will for you and His plan for us all. Forgiveness lets YOU heal. Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the prison door…and the prisoner that is freed is you.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians (4:32)
These are just a few things that may reunite you with the spirit, the mood, and the intention of the season. They are things that you can bless others with as you bless yourself. They may take a little courage on your part. But, it is in the giving, the overcoming our fears, the extension of our hearts, and most of all, in the reaching out to God that we give the biggest gifts of all…and receive them as well.