Are you looking to have an awesome Christmas this year? A Christmas that will move you? One that has meaning behind it? I know I am. This past month I researched Christmas, that’s kind of funny to say. But I sought out answers to this holiday. After I put some of these pieces together, I was reminded of how to make this holiday a meaningful one. And who knew it has to do with identity? Before we get to that let’s have a short history lesson.
What’s up with ‘Merry Christmas’?
Tis the season to be Merry, fa la la la laaa, la la la laaaa! In 1843 it was Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” that introduced the word ‘Merry’ for “Merry Christmas”. Did you know that? I didn’t. The dictionary defines Merry as cheerful and lively. Occasionally you’ll hear “Happy Christmas”, but “Merry” fits the bill.
The word “Christmas” originated from “Christ’s Mass” which literally means a group of many people gathering to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. In fact, this celebration started in 313 AD, three centuries after Jesus’s crucifixion.* Interesting isn’t it?
Let’s talk about gifts.
How did gift giving come into play on Christmas?* Well, it’s not a black and white answer:
1– It started in Europe as a pagan custom around Winter Solstice, a celebration to mark the shortest day of the year. It falls in the range of December 20th-23rd each year. At this time ancient Rome would celebrate this day by gift-giving.
2– Around 336 AD December 25th was established as Jesus’s birthday in which the solstice gift-giving tradition leaked into the Christian holiday. Some believe that the gift giving started with the three Magi (wise men) giving gifts to baby Jesus.
3– On top of that, Santa Claus was introduced from a fourth-century Greek bishop who was a gift giver, Saint Nicholas. His legacy gradually blended into the Christmas celebration.
So “Merry Christmas” is a combination of things, but one thing is for sure, “Christ’s Mass” has stood the test of time. Jesus came to save us from our sins so we would have the opportunity to have life after death. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost”, says Jesus. And in Mark 10:45 Jesus also says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
How identity comes into play
A few years ago I read Matthew Barnett’s book The Cause Within You. He talks about his experience of listening and obeying God’s cause that He placed in his heart. Based in LA, he tells great stories about how people off the street, the homeless, the drug dealers and prostitutes have completely turned their life around by focusing on Jesus and the cause God placed in their hearts. How serving others, rather than serving themselves and their addictions has changed their life.
He says, “As soon as you start thinking about the needs and burdens of others, and what you can do to alleviate them, or how you can bless and build up others, you begin to establish a new identity for yourself – your true identity. “ (page 38)
Think about that for a minute. Christmas is the most popular time of year to give; not just presents. Just look at the Christmas movies: It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, or even Die Hard. Yes, I just referenced Elf and Die Hard in the same sentence. But hear me out, they all have something in common; do you know what it is?
Let me ask you this, what do you think would be a powerful way to celebrate the birth of Jesus this year? Sure we can give tangible gifts or donate money to a cause, those are fantastic ideas! But what about your time? Your precious time? What about sacrificing a slice of your time and put your talents to work to take the burden off someone else? What about using your strength to help a neighbor out with a project? What about turning on your personality to lift someone up with a little encouragement? You might say, “But I do that already Christy” But do you do it with Jesus in mind? Do you consciously say, “Hey Jesus, let’s bless someone today! Use me. Work through me. Let’s do this!”?
I love this statement from Rick Warren, “What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it. Not how long you lived, but how you lived.” In the Bible, 1 Peter 4 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” But here’s a bonus in all this. If you think serving is just for the person being served, you’re missing it.
What does serving do for you? It produces being Merry.
- It gives significance. Putting our talents to work to help someone else is meaningful for us. It warms the cockles of God’s heart. And generates joy in your own.
- It produces gratitude both for the servant and the person being served.
- It brings us back to earth. Serving helps take the focus off what’s going on inside us, to what’s going on around us. This helps us put our own lives in perspective.
Here are a few tips that have worked for me on serving others:
- The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
- Vision yourself helping.
- Pray for opportunities in which you can help someone out.
I have an experiment for you to try this month. I bet you know what it is. Serve with the mindset as giving a gift to Jesus; use your time, talents, and strength to give back to Him. Not sure where to serve? Don’t make this complicated. Open your eyes and pay attention to your surroundings. He’ll tell you.
One more thing, I encourage you to experience a “Christ’s Mass” and attend a Christmas Eve service at church.
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By CT Copyright © 2018 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved
*2 Corinthians 9:7
*Mark 10:45, Luke 19:10