I started to write this blog post thinking it would be a guide to surviving Christmas as singles. So many of us – not just singles – think of the holidays from the perspective of just getting through them.
I don’t know exactly what it is about the holidays, but they seem to create unrealistic expectations which instigate a general sense of discontent, cause us to compare ourselves with each other, and bring out the worst in relationships. As a result it becomes easier to adopt a cynical outlook rather than a celebratory one as we approach this “most wonderful time of the year.”
But my purpose in life is to thrive, not just to survive, and as I thought on these things my thoughts started to change. How can I thrive this Christmas, and how can I encourage you to thrive, too? Once my thoughts started going down this more positive track, I quickly jotted down several ways we can glean the most from the true meaning of Christmas.
Think about the reality of the first Christmas: a young couple, the woman about to give birth, traveling by foot at the mandate of the government to a town that had no room for them to stay indoors. Deeply devoted Jews, they were suffering the embarrassment and stigma of having a child out of wedlock. There were no doting grandparents along to coach the new young mother as she endured the pain and fear of childbirth for the first time, nor to welcome their grandchild into the world.
Yes, they were treasuring in their hearts the messages they’d both received from God that this was no ordinary child – that in fact He would be the Messiah their people had long been waiting for. What all this meant they had no idea, but they knew something amazing was happening. By faith they knew this. But the present reality was not pretty.
It’s the same for us. The reality and messiness of our present circumstances is not the whole picture of what God is doing in our lives. God is always up to something bigger and broader than what we can see. And just as Mary treasured and pondered those kinds of matters in her heart while trusting her Heavenly Father for what was to come, so we need to also.
Know Our Identity
Just as our present circumstances do not define the bigger picture of our lives, neither do they define our identity. Whether you’re spending Christmas with a great big noisy family, a few close friends, or at home alone, the fact is that you are a much-loved child of God. He uniquely designed and created you with the personality, abilities, and appearance only you have. He chose the specific time in history for you to be born, and to the parents He hand-picked for you. These things may not always seem like good things to you, but in the grand scheme of things we can trust that they are and that He has a purpose and plan for our lives for good. He loves us, more than we can ever imagine.
Accept the Greatest Gift
The greatest gift ever is the gift of grace – the free and unmerited favor of God that came through Jesus. When we recognize Jesus as our Savior, God transfers all of Jesus’ goodness and righteousness to us, and all our strivings to be right and good need to cease. God has said that any efforts on our part to make ourselves good will never be good enough, and that those efforts are as pitiful as trying to clothe ourselves with filthy rags. Jesus came to give us His pure robe of righteousness, so that when God looks at us, He sees Jesus’ goodness, not our futile efforts.
You may have been a Christian for a long time, yet not fully realized it isn’t up to you to be good enough for God. You can’t, no matter how hard you try. What you can do, and what He asks of you, is to consecrate yourself to Him. Surrender everything – who you are, your wants and desires, your struggles to be something – in exchange for His grace. And then watch and see what God does in and through your life. I can assure you it will be amazing!
Worship with Abandon
We know that on the night Jesus was born there were shepherds in the fields surrounding Bethlehem making sure their sheep were safe through the night. Can you imagine what it must have been like for them, settled in for another uncomfortable night away from their soft beds, to have the sky light up brighter than day, and an angel stand before them? The angel’s announcement that the Messiah they as a Jewish people had been waiting for had been born not far from them that very night must have been incredible to them! The angel told them they would know this was true if they found the baby in Bethlehem, wrapped snuggly in cloth and laying in a feeding trough. They made no delay in going to find this child, and find Him they did! Their response? Glorifying and praise God for all they had seen and heard, and that it was just as the angel had told them it would be!
I, too, want to be so filled with awe and wonder at the coming of Jesus and all that means to me in this life and for eternity, that my spontaneous response is to praise God with abandon. The shepherds didn’t seem worried about what others thought. Surely it must have seemed to their families and friends that their long nights in the fields had gotten the best of their senses! But the shepherds knew without question what they had seen and heard, and couldn’t help but be filled with praise and joy! Their lives must have changed forever that night. May our lives also be changed and overflow with worship as we encounter Jesus and all His coming means for us!
Look Beyond the Festivity and Glitter
So much of the customs, traditions, decorations, and partying surrounding Christmas has nothing to do with Christ’s coming. More often than not they distract us from seeing and experiencing the depth of the true meaning of Christmas. If your expectations of a wonderful and festive Christmas are not being fulfilled for whatever reason – consider that may be a blessing in disguise, freeing you to focus on and experience the real reason Jesus came. Take advantage of the freedom you have as a single – likely more free from the entrapments of family activities than most – to bask in the real meaning and wonder of Jesus the Messiah!
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas as you worship and celebrate Jesus, who came to live within us and among us. May His presence be constant and comforting to you, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year!