By Fern Horst
No matter whether you look forward to Christmas or dread it, the holiday season is upon us once again. For those who anticipate this time of year, it’s wonderful. But for those who dread the holidays the coming days and weeks can be a real struggle.
Christmas, along with most holidays, is often portrayed as a family holiday, leaving singles feeling a bit uncertain as to where they fit into the picture. But the portrayal of Christmas as a family holiday is grossly inaccurate. Jesus Christ came to the earth as a baby in order to bring salvation for every person, married or single, young or old, with parents or orphaned, childless or having a house full. Ironically, the baby whose birthday we celebrate never became a husband or father, never had a home of His own, and felt out of place in His own home town. If anyone can identify with Jesus, the single person can. So those who are married don’t have a monopoly on Christmas as we singles so often assume. Christmas is for everyone.
So what do we do to make this season a celebration, in spite of the emphasis on family all around us? The following five steps are just a few of the many ways to keep a joyful heart:
Step 1: Assess Our Expectations
The ugly green monster of jealousy is quick to rear it’s ugly head when we think that life must be perfect for the person on the other side of the proverbial fence. The man or woman who has a loving spouse and beautiful children may be struggling with something difficult which we know nothing about.
Just this past week at the doctor’s office, a married woman with children confided in me that this time of year puts her in a bad mood. There’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. She’s glad when January rolls around and all the hustle and bustle is over for another year.
So, just as married people don’t have a monopoly on celebrating Christmas, so singles don’t have a monopoly on dreading it! It’s important to remind ourselves of this, and to reduce our expectations of what Christmas is “supposed” to be. This isn’t just a problem for singles, married people need to lower their expectations for a perfect Christmas also.
Step 2: Slay the Dragon of Self-Pity with Thankfulness
Make it a rule for yourself this year that you won’t allow yourself to indulge in self-pity. Once allowed room in our hearts, self-pity can soon consume us and spoil every bit of pleasure that God has given us. As soon as those thoughts come, rebuke them and replace them with a prayer of thankfulness for what you do have. Everyone has something to be thankful for, and remember – the most important part of Christmas is for everyone.
Step 3: Do Something to Make Christmas Special for Someone Else
All of us likely know someone who may be spending Christmas alone, or who may not have enough money for gifts for their children, whom we can help in some way. If we don’t personally know anyone like this, most nursing homes have individuals who have few visitors. Those who work there are usually glad to make it known who needs some Christmas cheer.
When you’re out and about, smile at those you see. Find opportunities to pass on warm and cheery greetings to those in the check-out lines with you, the cashier, and your neighbors. You never know who may be struggling with the holidays and need a bit of encouragement. You could make their day with just a smile or a cheerful comment.
And, something we often overlook are the families we do have: parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. Children especially bring out the joy in Christmas and we don’t have to have children of our own in order to enjoy Christmas through their eyes. If you don’t have nieces and nephews, perhaps you can adopt a few at church, or learn to know your friends’ children. Help a child to enjoy Christmas, and you’ll inevitably find some enjoyment yourself.
Step 4: Count Our Blessings
Perhaps you’re feeling like this is getting a bit too Pollyanna-like, and this step takes the cake! But wait, before you stop reading, consider this: what alternatives do we have to listing the many blessings God has given us? We can slip further into depression and despondency, or we can become numb and without feeling. Neither are appealing prospects.
Making a list of the blessings we can celebrate this Christmas season keeps our focus where it should be, on what we do have rather than what we don’t have. Most of us have just as many blessings as those on the other side of the fence. We’ve just focused so long and so often on their blessings that we find it difficult to see our own. No doubt those who are married find themselves doing the same thing.
Step 5: Keep Christ the Center of Christmas
Alright, I admit it, that’s another overused cliche. I’m convinced, though, that it’s overused because it’s so very important. And again, everyone needs to make Christ the center of their Christmas. The busier we are with Christmas preparations, the easier it is to forget the importance of what we are celebrating. Christmas is not about gifts, it’s not about the twinkling eyes of children, it’s not about a Christmas tree and special cookies and a family gathered around a feast on Christmas Day. It’s about Christ and about what He came to give us.
Take time to read the Christmas story several times in the next few weeks, and then read the Easter story also to keep in mind why Christ came. Set up a small nativity in a spot where you see it often and enjoy it with any children who may come to visit. I followed my Mother’s example and bought a plastic set, so that my nieces and nephews could arrange and rearrange the characters without fear of breaking them. I have many fond memories of doing the same as a child with my Mother’s nativity set.
I trust that these ideas will trigger some of your own. Much as we’d sometimes like to, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s and Father’s Days don’t exist. The reminders are everywhere and we can’t escape them. What we can do, though, is determine to enjoy them in our own ways, establishing our own traditions and refusing to succumb to the idea that they are only for those who are married.
My most meaningful Christmas ever was the one when I initially felt despair, but in a special moment at a Christmas Eve service, realized anew that when Christ came to earth, He came because He loved me.