December 25 is approaching with supernatural speed every year, it seems. You can go through the annual checklist – buy gifts, decorate the house, prepare family recipes, attend parties – and still say the phrase, “It just doesn’t look like Christmas.”
Peace, love and joy are the feelings that should be abundant during the holiday season. But we live in a troubled world, so how do we find these emotions in the midst of all the problems and distractions of our time?
Choosing to seek peace, love and joy is the first step. Discovering them will be different for everyone, but listening to seasonal or inspirational music, watching uplifting movies, doing something new, or performing a little act of kindness can all be great places to start.
Listening to holiday music can help create the Christmas spirit. After all, it is the “happiest season of all”.
Christmas can transport us through time. You might remember singing “Jingle Bells” with your grandmother while she was ringing sleigh bells, and now you’re the grandma singing it with your grandchild. Instead of giving in to the sadness of loved ones who have passed away, remember the joy they have sown in your life and pass it on. The gift of time and attention far outweighs any package under a tree.
There is no lack of Christmas carols or merry tunes to lighten the heart. Begin with songs indicating the origin of the holiday, a celebration of the birth of Jesus.
“Away in a Manger” portrays a peaceful and humble beginning. “Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay with me forever.” Isn’t that a peaceful request? And for believers, the fulfilled one.
“Mary Did You Know” is a more modern song that asks the teenage mother of Jesus, “Did you know that when you kiss your little baby, you kissed the face of God? It gives a powerful yet peaceful picture of what a young mother may have felt as she took care of her newborn gift.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, there are plenty of Christmas songs to put in a good mood. If you are invited to a friend’s house, ring the doorbell and serenade them “We wish you a Merry Christmas”. Demand that fig pudding or personalize the lyrics – “We all want a pecan pie and we won’t go until we get it.” It will be a fun way to start the evening.
A more recent song by Francesca Battistelli paints a picture of the many things “Christmas Is”, like mum burning the turkey, paper and ribbon strewn on the floor and dropping money into a bucket for those in need. He is optimistic and covers many scenarios that many of us have gone through.
In Acts 20:35, Jesus is quoted as having said a phrase that many parents have spoken to a child at one time or another: “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.
If you want to help a child reap these blessings, help him participate in gifts. For example, make gift bags for teachers with hand sanitizer, candy cane, hot chocolate bags, etc. Let them do the shopping with you to choose the gifts.
Giving gifts doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be thoughtful. It should be a gift of love.
Many older people feel forgotten, invisible and unloved. A handmade card delivered by a child can be one of the happiest times of their day. Or fill a stocking with the necessary items and a few fun things and write the name of an elderly neighbor on it. We once heard an octogenarian say, “I’ve never had a sock with my name on it before. It was a time that was good for the family and cost very little.
Another way to teach donation is to have a child choose cans and boxes to donate to a homeless shelter or other nonprofit organization that feeds hungry people. If your budget is tight, tell them you can only spend a set amount and help them figure out how that dollar will go the most. It might be wise to call a shelter first and ask them what they need.
Another way to get into the holiday spirit is to watch some classic holiday movies or TV shows.
Like music, movies can lift a heart and evoke some of those feelings of Christmas, peace, love, or joy. They can also just be fun with the family.
Make a plan, leave phones and other distractions in another room, grab some festive snacks, and enjoy diving into a classic and sharing the tears or laughs with someone you love.
Some of the classic family must-haves include White Christmas, it’s a wonderful life, Frosty the snowman, how the grinch stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Our essential family is The Muppets’ Christmas Carol with Michael Caine, where the ghost of the Christmas present reminds us, “wherever you find love, it’s like Christmas.”
Trying new things is another way to bond with family and add fun to holiday traditions. Plan a beach picnic to watch the stars, go to a living nativity scene in a church, visit some of the tourist attractions you might have missed, like visiting the Battleship North Carolina or the Railway Museum, which has a phenomenal array of model railroads and railway-themed gifts.
Step out with a visit to the New Hanover County Arboretum where camellias should be in full bloom, koi carp should be active in the pond, and the improved children’s garden could be full.
A new thing could also be a day of service for a nonprofit. Volunteers often need to be adults, but some organizations will use teenagers accompanied by an adult. Groups such as Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry (WARM) may use volunteers for a day or more. Carpentry experience is not required, but still useful.
Many nonprofits have a wishlist on their websites, allowing donors to fund anything they need.
Ultimately, finding the Christmas spirit is up to each of us. There are no guarantees, but if you are looking for peace, love and joy, you might just “Have a Merry Little Christmas”.