As the Christmas shopping season creeps closer to Halloween with each passing year, I’m reminded how advertisements, media, and companies prey on our inability to be content. For a nation overly concerned with happiness, it seems that we exist in a vicious cycle perpetuated by capitalism, which is an unfortunate byproduct of our wonderful free market economy. It seems to me that the odds are stacked against us finding contentment at Christmas.
This year, I found that while shopping for Thanksgiving groceries four days before the feast, the Christmas music was already pumping through the store’s speakers. The holiday gift aisles were already stocked, and I began feeling stressed out.
Cue pressure and overwhelm – true hallmarks of the season.
I’ve never felt like the best gift-giver. I don’t like excess. I prefer less over more (except in the case of money, of course), plus my husband’s busiest work season is during the winter. In my heart, I love the message and meaning of Christmas, and adore the uptick in music gigs that the holidays afford, but dislike the sense of discontentment it evokes in me.
I wondered, could I find contentment at Christmas?
Self-Control and Contentment
In our last meeting before the holidays, our women’s Bible study discussed self-control, one of the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5. A friend shared that she found she had more self-control when she prayed for contentment for what she had. It reminded me of the paradox of the Christian life: the first shall be last, the least shall be greatest, and we are to serve rather than to be served.
It got me thinking about how to be content at Christmas with less instead of more. To count my blessings instead of making my ‘wish’ lists; to reflect on the year and all God has done for me instead of all the things that haven’t come together the way I thought they would.
To be completely honest, it’s been a trying year. For every up, there’s been a significant down. My beloved grandmother died a week short of her 99 birthday, then we lost my father-in-law unexpectedly after complications from surgery.
Enter a season of deep grief and loss.
Adding insult to injury, there have been a handful of professional setbacks, uncertainty, belt-tightening thanks to inflation, and a few other bumps in the road.
Can contentment help with grief?
Despite disappointment, grief, and frustration, I’ve been reminded that I’m a writer and one of the callings God has shown me is that I see things and think about things that others don’t notice. When I’m able to be still and reorient myself to what I know for sure, I realize I can count on Jesus, my identity in how I’ve been gifted, and my husband. After that, it’s a toss-up.
Opportunities come and go, things break down, relationships fail, rituals change, and desires wane, but I can count on Jesus’ unfailing love for me to guide and keep me in his presence and will.
When I position myself to recognize the incredible gift faith is, I’m reoriented to a sense of fullness and peace. I rely on Christ to fill Christmas and shape my days.
I’m taking extra care this year to adjust my expectations for Christmas: I don’t really need anything, but I do crave quality time with my family. I don’t need more desserts, but I do desire the sweetness of the Christmas story which includes a willing girl, an obedient young man, a faithful and perfect son, and God who decided that it was more important to come down to his people and dwell with us instead of sitting on a throne of judgment.
Wherever you are, whatever your situation, status, or season in life, I pray contentment, peace, and calm over you this Christmastide.