I love Christmas, and even I love it more now than when I was a kid. And while early in my marriage, I was admittedly against decorating before Thanksgiving, I’ve even relaxed on that rule. It is, without question, my favorite time of the year. But as much as I love the holiday and what it ultimately means, there is a vast gap between the Christmas that the commercials promise and the Christmas that we experience.
Despite all the music, decorations, and parties, this is actually a difficult season for many. People often get the “Christmas blues,” finding the holidays to be a time when they’re particularly vulnerable to depression. And then there’s the “Christmas hangover.” It’s not the one caused by too much eggnog; it’s the one that hits after the presents are opened, the stockings are empty, and the meal is over, and we find ourselves thinking, “Is that it?”
The Christmas blues and the Christmas hangover come together when unbridled expectations meet reality—when we build up an expectation for something that it can’t possibly meet. We have plenty of help building these expectations from social media, TV commercials and department stores. They paint the picture that our loneliness will be turned into joy and that the gift we want so badly will ultimately satisfy.
A joy that fades
But these expectations can’t possibly be met. Sometimes the holidays don’t bring families together. Or, they bring families together just to let a grenade go off among them. Sometimes you get everything you want, and still that nagging, empty feeling is there. Sometimes the season is terribly lonely because you have lost a loved one. Unbridled expectations slam into reality.
If we feel this as Christians then you can only imagine what it’s like for someone who has yet find the real substance of Christmas altogether. Beneath the fixed smiles and the compulsory “cheer,” these can be dark, difficult times for those who have yet to meet the Savior, the One to which all the silver and gold and all the gift-giving points.
A unique opportunity for the church
This sad cycle of Christmas actually creates a unique situation for Christians, if we’re willing to recognize it and do something about it. Given the reality of the Christmas blues and just the fact that people seem more open during this season to spiritual, meaningful things, Christmas affords the opportunity for evangelism. This holiday creates the perfect time and space for us to give people the only thing that will wake them up from their spiritual slumber, to give them the only gift that will bring true joy and satisfaction to their lives.
Knowing the opportunity we have, as the people of God, here are a few things to consider as you seek to make the most of Christmas this year and faithfully share the love of God:
- Begin praying now for those in your life that you know who are far from God and don’t know the Lord. Plead with the Lord to save them this Christmas season, for the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to the glory and beauty of Jesus Christ. Ask our good Father to give you the chance to share the gospel and to give you wisdom and boldness as you do so.
- Make specific plans to see a few of these individuals in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas. Maybe you could invite a friend over for dinner. Maybe you could attend a particular Christmas party. Maybe you could reach out to a cousin and make sure they’ll be at the family get together. Begin thinking about when and where you’ll be able to share the gospel with them.
- Practice sharing the gospel aloud and writing it out. Meditate on passages like John 3:16-17, Romans 3:23-25, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Think about how you would approach things differently depending on the person. Consider ways to bring it up in conversation. Be prepared to give testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of our God in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ!
Everyone is looking for what you already have
This Christmas, we have the chance to not only overcome the chaos and confusion of the holidays, to find the substance underneath the shadows. We also have the chance to show the world around us what that true substance is. Everyone will be looking for it. They do every year. And they will be depressed and disappointed yet again if they’re only left with a shadow or facade. They’ll find themselves wrought with the Christmas blues and a Christmas hangover another year.
As we move into the weeks ahead, let us be bold and courageous as we share the good news of the gospel, the greatest gift in the world, with our coworkers, friends, family and anyone who will listen. Let us be excited and expectant about introducing others to their God and King, who sees them, hears them, who cares for them and who will give them a joy and peace that is actually real and will actually last.
An Even Better Christmas is a new book from Matt Chandler that’s designed to be given away to non-believing friends and family or at Christmas services and other evangelistic events.