- As a family, evaluate all your scheduled holiday activities. Only participate in those that you can honestly say you're attending because they bring you joy and contribute to your Christian holiday season. If, on the other hand, you're dreading that party or that holiday event and only attend because you feel pressure to meet the expectations of other people, then perhaps it's time to let people in on your change in direction. It may upset some people initially, but taking back control of your holidays won't always make everyone else happy. Pleasing God and keeping your sanity must take the highest priority.
There will always be pressure from other people coming at you from all directions during the holidays. Being a Christian at Christmas means you have to fight your way through the noise to get to all that's Christian about the season. The holiday season is a great opportunity to let others see you "walk the walk" and "talk the talk." Saying you're a Christian is one thing, actually being one at Christmas shows what you're really made of.
- Give other people a break. Putting pressure on others to meet your expectations adds a lot of unnecessary stress on them. Remember, they're facing the same things you're facing during the holidays. If people can't make it to your holiday gathering, the world won't stop turning. Cutting people some slack will go a long way toward doing what you can to help others reduce their holiday stress level.
- As a family, discuss your financial status and make a commitment not to overspend. There is nothing Christian about getting into debt just to satisfy unreasonable demands and expectations. God always looks at motive, no matter what you do. Now is the time to re-evaluate what you're spending, and why you're spending it. It may not be easy to change your overspending holiday habits, but it's better to take small steps than none at all.
Of course, gift giving can mean different things to different people. For example, in my family, gift giving takes on the form of an Olympic event. Having received belly-button lights which my brother helpfully described as "great for reading," and slippers made from Kotex pads, and, oh yes, let's not forget the talking fish that was already moving under the wrapping paper before I even opened it. Well, let's just say the attempts to out-give each other really do reach Olympic proportions.
I'm not really sure what God thinks about the motive in that scenario. I'm just glad he has a sense of humor.
Being a "Christian at Christmas" requires a deliberate, concentrated effort. The world continues to get more commercialized, so you can bet God will honor all your efforts to keep the focus where it should be. And you can also bet he'll appreciate your efforts to set the right example for your family and friends.
Karen Wolff, a contributing writer for About.com, is host to a Christian Web site for women. As founder of Christian-Books-for-Women.com, she wants to provide Christian women with a place to find practical information, tips, and help with a variety of issues they face every day. For more information visit Karen's Bio Page.