Make a transformation rather than a transaction this Christmas season
December 17, 2014
Christmas is near, and television commercials, holiday catalogs and store displays urge us to spend and be merry. The message: Bigger transactions equal greater joy. In reality, a transactional Christmas is expensive, stressful and exhausting for "happy" people. And it intensifies the pain of myriad people struggling with loss, isolation and hopelessness. Why not make Christmas a transformation instead of a transaction? You'll receive the gift of peace and joy and make a positive impact on the lives of people around you.
Transactions stem from demands. They're about assuming control. Someone has something we need and we pay to get it. At Christmas the things we pay for are the things we think others want. And a big part of the stress becomes deciding what others want in the first place. We tell ourselves that this is what giving is all about. Not much room for peace and joy there.
A transactional Christmas is easily diminished by our failures. Maybe we're forced to admit that we don't have the money to buy the gifts we think we need to give. It could be that we must spend time with relatives with whom relationships are broken and failed. The emotional and spiritual isolation brought on by divorce, unemployment, illness and death is intensified as we focus on our losses and regrets.
The good news is that Christmas is actually about transformation. The world is often cold and harsh. Life is not fair. Our lives are scarred by sin, mistakes and guilt. But God uses all the difficult circumstances of our lives to serve his purpose through us … once we open our hearts. Christmas gives us the opportunity for a transformation that is all about giving up control and relying on faith and trust.
Jesus was born in the midst of pain and poverty to show that no one is isolated from him. Anyone may lay his or her sins at the foot of the cross and receive God's redeeming grace. Such an act of faith opens a person to a transforming peace like no other. It is surrendering fear, guilt and regret to the almighty and replacing those with trust. This amazing gift was given to humanity by the birth of Christ two millennia ago, but it must be unwrapped by each person when he or she uncouples his or her spiritual being from the transactions of everyday life.
You don't have to be a Christian to experience a transformation during Christmas. At the core of Christmas is the concept of community. It's about fostering relationships by openly admitting to others that you need and want them in your life. In a strong community where vulnerability strengthens bonds, you can let down your guard and cry out when you need help. When you are connected in that way, the people in your community will respond to you in positive ways that you never expected.
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In the community of Christ, God expects his people to bond with him and one another. Christmas is a reminder that we have the opportunity to cry out to him when life is more than we can handle. He wants us to confide in and support each other. The Holy Spirit works through those around us as people respond to our needs. Those experiences bring about profound transformations. When people are transformed, they become instruments of his will, eager to respond to the needs of others.
There's certainly nothing wrong with partaking in the transactions that go along with Christmas in our society. A lot of joy can stem from gifts under a tree, stockings full of surprises and displays of twinkling lights. But it's important to remember that Christmas transcends all that. As the Grinch learned when he tried to steal Christmas, "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!"
Our world is full of need. Through community, especially the community of Christ, we can find real fulfillment and truly touch the lives of others throughout the year. Jesus was all about relationships, with him and our fellow man. Begin your transformation this Christmas by reaching out to him, to your spouse, to your family, to a friend, to a stranger. You'll find more peace and joy than you ever expected. Merry Christmas!
James D. Kellogg is a water resource engineer and the author of "Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller". Look for the novel on amazon.com and visit JamesDKellogg.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.