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The holiday season – which in my mind runs from mid-October to New Year’s Day – can bring out the best or the worst in all of us. In a typical year, this season brings feelings of anticipation, stress, excitement, joy, hope, exhaustion, or even depression. Most of you may routinely ask yourself how to prepare for the holidays as a Christian.
But so much has changed in the last few years, you may be re-evaluating a lot in your life – including holidays. As the holiday season approaches this year, you may be experiencing a wide range of emotions. This time of the year isn’t always happy – even in a non-chaotic world. Your emotions may run from feelings of hopefulness and jot to fear, despair, or apathy.
Maybe you’re thinking more “survival” than “celebration” as you look ahead to the quickly approaching holiday season.
Maybe you’ll come out with the groundhog in February and see who and what is left.
Can I encourage you to face the next three months with courage and hope? Remember what 2 Timothy 1:7 says: God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear but of power and discipline. Use this year-end season as a time of celebration – this year and every year, no matter what.
While 2020 may have thrown the entire world off-kilter, God remains on His throne. He was not surprised by the natural disasters, the pandemic, the riots, or the increasing animosity towards believers around the world.
Which brings us to now. How should we prepare for the holiday season this year? What should be the focus of the celebrations that end one year and begin another? Should anything change because of the year that 2020 has been – and if so, then what?
Why Do We Celebrate Holidays?
Before we can tackle the issue of holidays, it might be useful to remember some truths about why we celebrate holidays. Any holidays, not just the 3-month marathon from October to January.
You may have special reasons for celebrations, but here are some common reasons for celebrating:
- Holidays remind us of God’s past work for believers:
- Providing a Savior (Christmas)
- Proving the sin-debt was paid (Easter)
- Pointing to the return of Jesus (Ascension Day)
- Providing the indwelling Holy Spirit (Pentecost)
- Holidays remind us of God’s blessings for all people or specific countries:
- Celebrating an abundant harvest and material blessings (Thanksgiving)
- Remembering previous wars & those who fought in them (Veteran’s Day)
- Reminders of the cost of freedom (Memorial Day)
- Focusing on the blessings of freedom and democracy (Independence Day)
- Holidays can be cultural traditions that bind us to each other:
- Cinco de Mayo
- Valentine’s Day
- St. Patrick’s Day
These are all good reasons for celebrating various holidays. But you know what isn’t a good reason? “Because we’ve always done it.”
There may be good reasons why something is always celebrated one way or another. But why not take time to examine your family’s traditions this year? I love traditions and know how important they are. But sometimes it’s also good to step back and look at what holidays you celebrate, why you celebrate, and how you celebrate.
And maybe, just maybe, you will see God ‘doing a new thing’ (Isaiah 42:9), as you open your thoughts and heart to new possibilities.
Which brings us to this question:
How should you prepare for the holidays this year?
3 Ways to Prepare for the Holidays
The first thing you need to do is pray about your holiday celebrations. Of course, the first thing you should always do in any situation is to pray! Don’t tackle holidays or life without the wisdom and power available through prayer.
God may want to do something special in your life or your family’s life. He may want to use you to minister to others. He may want you to make small changes or BIG changes. You’ll never know if you don’t ask Him about it.
Of course, praying about how to celebrate any holiday in any year isn’t a one-and-done thing. You need to keep praying as you go through the remaining steps I’m going to suggest. And while you’re praying, keep a journal handy for writing thoughts, impressions, ideas, and Scriptures. Being prepared to act (by taking notes and making plans) shows God you’re serious about hearing and following His directions.
After you pray, grab the journal you recorded your thoughts in, a calendar, and a pad of paper. Then start writing.
Use the calendar to jog your memory. Create as many lists as you need to cover the entire October to January marathon. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Holidays to celebrate
- Meals to cook
- Presents to buy
- Decorations to purchase/use/give away
- Traditions to start, keep, change, or get rid of
- Things that stress you out (deep-six anything here that you can)
- Family get-togethers
- Children’s activities
- Books to read
- Movies to watch
- Goodies to bake
When you’re done making as many lists as you need and putting everything you can think of on each list, set it aside for at least a day or two. Spend the in-between days praying for wisdom, discernment, and grace.
When you are ready for the next step, grab a red pen and your lists.
Look at those lists. If you’re like a typical American, you have more items on your lists than you have time, money, or sanity. Now you need to examine each item and ask yourself this question:
“Would Jesus approve?”
Remember, you are focused on how to prepare for the holidays. As Christians, you and I should always be looking at our life decisions in the light of this question. Holidays are no different.
Think of it this way:
- “Would Jesus approve of having family members over for a Thanksgiving feast, football, and conversation?”
- Answer: yes, He enjoyed spending time with His close friends whenever time allowed.
- “Would Jesus approve of providing treats for the children in my son’s preK class?”
- Answer: yes, Jesus showed His love for others in many ways.
- “Would Jesus approve of our family spending so much on gifts that it takes more than six months to pay it off?”
- Answer: no, the Bible is clear that debt is not a good thing.
Remember as you go through this exercise that God wants us to enjoy ourselves. He wants us to have fun, to laugh, to eat good food, to explore His creation. He wants us to remember His blessings and use them to bless others. He wants us to honor ‘holy days’ as reminders of His faithfulness from eternity past and up to this moment.
As you go through your lists, you may find that most activities have clear yes or no answers. But not always. What do you do in those situations?
You have a few options. You can simply eliminate the item, deciding that there are plenty of other clear ‘yes’ activities. Or you could postpone a decision while you do some research and Bible study, and make a decision later. Finally, you may decide to have a family meeting about this item. Family members could bring their own research and pro-con arguments and you can decide together.
Just remember, your decisions – while firm for this year – are not eternal! You can always make different decisions next year!
In asking “Would Jesus approve?” your goal should not be to remake your holiday season into a super-spiritual event. Instead, you are looking at life and asking, would I invite Jesus to join me in this? Would He have fun eating pie, playing flag football, decorating the tree, or baking cookies? Or would I be ashamed to have Him come over during this time?
What Does the Bible Say?
I’m not writing a Bible study about holidays. But as Christians, it’s always a good practice to turn to God’s Word when making big or small decisions. Here are just a few ideas and events from the Bible that might help you to prepare for the holidays:
- God commanded several holidays – or holy days – for Israel to observe. These were all designed to remind the Israelites of who God is and what He had done for them (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7-8, 35-37; Numbers 28:26).
- Celebrations often involved reading the Word of God aloud (Nehemiah 8:9-12).
- Food was an important part of the holy day celebrations, which were called Feasts (Exodus 23; 34; Leviticus 23).
- God’s miraculous deliverance was celebrated (Exodus 12; Esther 9).
- The Feasts were celebrated to remember and to teach the next generation (Exodus 12:23-27).
- Holy days often became empty rituals (Isaiah 1:14: Hosea 2:11).
- Jesus celebrated the Jewish feasts (Luke 2:41-42; 22:7-8; John 7:2-11).
- Believers were instructed not to judge others regarding the celebrating of feasts (Colossians 2:16-23).
- Our choices should never cause another believer to stumble and sin (1 Corinthians 8).
- Everything you do should be done for the Lord (Romans 14:5-9).
- Each believer has freedom, but that freedom should never be used as an excuse to sin (Galatians 5).
Now you have a plan, or at least a guide, for making decisions about how to celebrate the holidays. While this process isn’t complicated, it does take some time.
The rewards of less stress and more joy will be well worth the time you invest in thinking hard about how you want to celebrate this holiday season – and maybe many more to come as well. Just pray, think, evaluate & eliminate. And use the principles found in God’s Word to guide you.
Here are a few other articles that might help you:
- How to make a Halloween prayer plan.
- Suggestions for great gifts – that don’t involve screens!
- Why family traditions matter – and not just during the holidays.