Oh, how I love Boxing Day.
For those of you who don’t know, Boxing Day is the day after Christmas and is a holiday in the UK. I won’t take time to explain the history of this day (look it up if you are interested) but all you need to know is that now Boxing Day has become just a wonderful, relaxing extension of Christmas. There are family gatherings, meals out, sale shopping and many, many brisk walks to mitigate the over-eating from the day before.
As I picked at the leftovers, tidied up and mopped the floors this morning, I was pondering our Christmas Day.
Our family is changing. Sometimes more quickly than I am ready for but it is changing none the less. It was interesting and wonderful sharing Christmas with my new son-in-law and other ‘appendages’ and talking about different Christmas traditions.
Of course, everyone thinks their way is the best way.
For some, Christmas can’t start until they have been to a Christmas Eve Candlelight service at church or read the Christmas story together before tucking excited children into bed. Some insist opening gifts on Christmas Eve is the only way. Others somehow manage the patience to wait until after the Queen’s speech. In some houses, Christmas breakfast is smoked salmon while others keep it simple with tea, toast and a few chocolates from the tin. My mom started a tradition of fancy breakfasts in our house so we go to town and pull our grandma’s dishes and wine glasses, despite the impracticability of it all.
I know some very artistic present wrappers but many more ‘stick it in a gift bag’ types. Some families love games while others can’t imagine missing the Christmas Day film. Whether you always buy new pyjamas for the family, fill up stockings with goodies or don’t bother, cook for a crowd or only a few, insist on Christmas pudding or apple pie or chocolate cake, you probably love the way you do Chrismas. It is your family culture, a mixture of your upbringing and your spouse’s and new things you picked up along the way.
But it struck me yesterday, that for those of us who love and follow Jesus, we have a culture that binds us, the culture of the Kingdom of God. And, whichever way we love to do things over the holiday season, there some cultural norms that should tie us together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
First of all, Christmas, at its heart, is about giving. As Christians, we shun materialism, but we embrace generosity. If I decided one year to escape the commercialism of Christmas and hunker down in a cabin in the middle of nowhere and just think religious thoughts, I would be missing the central core of the message of Chrismas. For God so loved the world, He gave.
It just does. If we don’t give, we don’t love. Love gives hugs and it cooks and washes up. Love makes time for family and friends and those who are alone. It gives even when there is no reciprocation. In fact, I don’t think there is a proper way to remember the birth of Jesus that does not involve generosity. We give to those we love, those we work with, those who have less than us. We give out of an overflow of what God has given us. We give time and kindness and the gift of ourselves, even when we don’t really feel like it.
And, Christmas is about people. There is something about the holidays that draws us together. Christmas songs like ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ and ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ capture well this need to be with those we love. Perhaps it is the desire to share time with those who know us best, those who we are bound to by blood or marriage or friendship, or perhaps it is a need to connect with those with whom we share traditions and history. This is, of course, a Kingdom value too. In God’s Kingdom, people are always the priority. As children of God, we are being like our Dad when we love our families, appreciate our friends and when we make room in our gatherings for someone new to join us.
There is something very Christ-like about looking around the Christmas table and deciding to love those you have been given, despite inevitable conflicts, irritations and frustrations. It takes work and commitment, forgiveness and grace. It takes the love only God can give. It is the way we show we belong to Jesus and it is a perfect way to celebrate His undeserved gift to us.
And, by the way, thoughtful gifts are a beautiful way to show someone that we know who they are and we ‘get’ them. I personally think that being known is one of our deepest human needs and these holiday times are an opportunity to express this to one another in intentional ways.
Yesterday, after all the presents had been opened, the lunch was eaten and games had been played, my husband had us all go into the kitchen with the lights off. He went out in the garden and suddenly it was lit up with a string of festoon lights that I had admired earlier in the year. I’m a writer and a thinker. Honestly, I can be a little complicated and not everyone gets me. Sometimes that is really very lonely. When those closest to me show me I am loved and understood, and even liked, it is a healing gift to my soul.
And finally, a Kingdom Christmas is always filled with worship. Worship is intended to be the starting point of everything we do. It is what we were created for. It can, and should, fuel every aspect of Christmas, and actually, every part of our lives
These next few days can be worshipful, despite the full schedules, if our minds are daily being renewed (Romans 12.1-2) and we are careful what we are thinking about. Finding opportunities for prayer and God’s Word will leave less breeding ground for the disappointments, annoyances and hurts that Christmas can so often produce, like every other time of the year.
Whatever we are doing today, whether it is a long walk, movies and chocolate, a family party or just chilling, we can fill it with the culture and traditions of the Kingdom of God.
We can give. We can give encouragement and kindness, thoughtful gifts, delicious food or just our undivided attention or acceptance. Sometimes these gifts are the most costly, and the most appreciated.
We can also decide to make people the priority. We can call someone who would love to hear from us. We can play a game with our kids and tell our spouse how much we love them. We can decide to forgo sale shopping and really be there for someone who needs it. We can choose to help when we would rather sit and we can choose to love when it feels undeserved.
And we can worship, every moment of every day. We can worship God with how we act, with our thoughts and with our hearts. We can find the good in the disappointing and find the beauty in the mess. We worship God because He deserves it. And, because worshipping our Creator and loving people is the only way to spend Christmas. it is, in fact, the only way to spend our lives.
Wishing you all a Happy Boxing Day!