Christmastime is filled with a variety of activities, events, and obligations. There are the seasonal songs and decorations, plus the holiday feasts and celebrations. Most of the hubbub is enjoyable, though many people are exhausted by the time Christmas is over. Often, they are left wondering what the point of it all was.
The solution is found in exploring the spiritual side of the season. They discover meaning, inspiration, and an enhanced appreciation of the holiday by understanding the Christian origin of our modern celebration of Christmas. Specifically, that Christmas recognizes the birth of Jesus Christ. That birth, over 2000 years ago, introduced hope to a hopeless world.
If you would like to experience Christmas anew and gain an understanding of the season’s true significance, consider these seven suggestions.
1. Attend services at a local church.
Many churches produce a special choral and/or children´s Christmas presentation during the Christmas season. In addition, Sunday worship services often have a Christmas theme throughout the month of December. This is generally reflected in the music, the messages, and any other service elements the church may choose to include. In most churches, the season culminates with a Christmas Eve (often by candlelight) and/or Christmas Day service. Contact churches in your area to see what opportunities are available for you.
2. Take in a presentation of Handel´s Messiah.
Originally composed in 1742 by George Frideric Handel (whom Beethoven declared to be the best composer who ever lived), Messiah has become one of the most famous oratorios in the world. Because it has become intricately linked to the Christmas season, it is likely that you can find a performance in your area. Check with your local theater(s).
3. Volunteer at a charity.
The Christian celebration of Christmas acknowledges that God gave of Himself by entering into the world as a baby (Jesus) for the benefit of humankind. Following His example, you can give of yourself for the benefit of others by volunteering your time and effort at a local charity. A local soup kitchen, food bank, or Salvation Army post may be able to suggest some options.
4. Light an Advent wreath with your family.
The traditional Advent season encompasses the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day. While many churches light the candles of an Advent wreath during their services, many families perform a similar ritual in their homes. Though there are different customs regarding the meaning of the candles, one is that the four candles represent hope, peace, joy, and love. A fifth candle, known as the Christ candle, is sometimes added on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. You can find specific instructions at local bookstores, card and gift shops, and online.
5. Read a Christmas-themed devotional book through the Advent season.
A devotional book contains a short reading (often a single page) containing a spiritual thought for each day. Devotional books specific to the season are often available to be purchased at Christmastime, perhaps even including printed dates for each reading. By investing five minutes each day to read the page for the corresponding day, you can greatly enhance your enjoyment of and appreciation for the holiday.
6. Watch Christian-themed seasonal films.
In the midst of all the secular Christmas movies, you can find some spiritual gems. Watching movies such as The Nativity Story, for example, can become a Christmas tradition for you. For children (and the young at heart), there are several VeggieTales films pertaining to Christmas. For traditionalists, the Rankin/Bass stop motion animation classics The Little Drummer Boy and Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey can be purchased on DVD and watched as a family.
7. Read the Christmas story from the Bible.
The primary accounts of the birth of Jesus, the basis for the Christmas celebration, can be found in the biblical Gospels of Matthew (1:18-2:12) and Luke (2:1-20). Take the time during the season to read one or both of these passages. Many families pause during their family Christmas gathering to read one of these accounts; you may wish to do the same. If you do not have a Bible in an understandable translation available at home, you can find online versions at BibleGateway.com.
This Christmas, move beyond the shopping, the giving and receiving of gifts, and the office Christmas parties. Set aside the hustle and bustle of the season long enough to enjoy the spiritual aspects. When you do, you will encounter the message that has provided hope and purpose for billions of people throughout the past two millennia.