Personal Development

Five Ideas for Thriving, not Merely Surviving, this Christmas

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

When I was thinking about what to write for Christmas, I thought about writing a post on how to survive the Christmas season on your own. Christmas can be a lonely and difficult time for so many people, not only singles, and as such I think it is important that we prepare ourselves mentally, but Biblically, for the season. However as I reflected I thought that we singles actually have a wonderful opportunity to bring Christ back to the forefront of Christmas. We have an opportunity to share more of Him with everyone around us and to be actively engaged in hosting as well as attending celebrations with friends and family. I thought we shouldn’t be thinking only about surviving Christmas, we should be thinking about thriving at Christmas. More importantly we should be thinking about how we can use the season to share the reason. So with that in mind here are my five ideas for thriving this Christmas, through bringing the love of Christ first to ourselves and then to the people around us.

  1. Waste some time with Jesus and get a fresh revelation of His love for you

If you are anything like me you may already spend a fair bit of time reading your Bible and talking to God. But this December take some time to just sit with Jesus and ask Him about His thoughts for you, His plans for you and His plans or words for anyone you might know. Have a Bible, notepad and pen handy and just write down anything that comes into your mind. Just sit with Him, waste time with Him. Have no agenda, no requests, just to know His heart and love for you. Close your eyes and ask Him to speak to you. It may take some time and you may doubt some of what you think you hear but just write it down anyway, it doesn’t matter. What you are doing is practicing the presence of God, as Andrew Murray calls it.

End this time by making a list of your assets (good health, a place to live, a job to go to, friends who care about you, a pet who loves you, a good sense of humor etc.). Then give God thanks for all these good things that he has given you, see them as evidence of His love and care for you every day of your life.

As you consider God’s love for you, and the blessings He has given you, you are building a secure foundation from which to reach out to those around you. When we know we are loved we can share that love. It is so important that we begin any celebration of Christmas by grounding ourselves in the love of Christ so that we can love ourselves and then our neighbors (for more on this see my post on 5 (Biblical) Reasons You Should Love Yourself). We need to be loving others from a place of fullness not emptiness and when we do that we are not concerned with how people respond but just that we are sharing.

  1. Do something tangible to demonstrate the love of God to the non-Christians in your life

Bake a cake, bring Christmas sweets, or any treat for that matter to your place of work or to your neighbors and think about putting a Bible verse with it. One thing that I have done over the years is to bring in something tasty and then to print off a bunch of little verses, usually about God’s love or plans and stick one on each treat. It is a bit arts and crafty but people really love it. I have been surprised by how little cheer is actually spread around workplaces anymore.

Now some people may not like the verse and others might, it really depends. If you feel that people might be very upset then just give them the sweet, but choose it carefully so that it is clearly a Christmas treat. That way if they ask you why or what is this for you can say it is for Christmas and hopefully then you can share a little bit about why you wanted to give them something and how Jesus is God’s gift to us at Christmas.

If food is not your thing then you might want to think about some other ways that you might show the love of God to those around you, This might involve helping out in some way, offering to help with someone’s shopping, or Christmas decorating or even child minding. It might be that you do an extra shift at work for a colleague who needs some time off.

Ask the Lord to show you something that you could do to show His love this Christmas to those around you who do not know Him. Ask Him for creative ideas and I know that he will show you the people and the way/s that you can bless them in some special way. Through doing this you are giving them a small taste of the Father’s love and the true spirit of Christmas.

  1. Invite, invite, invite

Invite people to Carols services, invite them to hear Handel’s Messiah, invite them to Christmas dinner or lunch or drinks. Invite them to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. But use the many, many events at this time of year to take a chance and invite people to do something with you that revolves around celebrating Christmas. So often we are afraid, we think what will people say, will they think I am trying to impose my faith on them. But most often I have found is that this is not true.

In the UK and in the Middle East I have had so many people from all different cultural and religious backgrounds say yes to attending Christmas events or even Christmas dinner with me. Every second year I host a Christmas lunch for anyone who is without family living in my area. Some of the people who attend are Christians but there are always some who are not. Over the years I have hosted Muslims, Hindus, Agnostics and even Atheists. I cook a big meal, I buy a small gift for each person and I try to show them that this is what Christmas is all about, it is about the gift of hospitality, it is about Christ welcoming us home by coming to live among us. It is about fellowship, the breaking of bread, the listening to stories, the celebration of God’s love for every single person.

Now you might not have enough resources to invite a lot of people to lunch or dinner but I am sure we could all invite one person, to one thing this Christmas. Someone who doesn’t know Jesus, but who the Lord has placed on our heart. As you do this I believe you will not only be a blessing but you will also be greatly blessed as I have seen happen so many times in the past.

  1. Send Christmas cards to non-Christian friends and family

Christmas cards are back in fashion and increasingly people long for the days when they received something personal in the post. Take some time this year to write cards to old friends, or to extended family members and share with them some of what you have been up to while sending them blessings and best wishes for the Christmas season. It may seem like a little thing but you never know who has been going through a tough time or who is feeling lonely or forgotten. I believe that as you pray over the cards and ask the Lord to bless each person that you send them to, you will be an instrument of His blessing to that person. You might not hear much back at the time but later on I guarantee that at least one person will tell you how much the card you sent meant to them.

I have an old friend of mine who lives in another country and I send a card to her every year. She is now in her 80s and one year she told me how much she enjoys receiving the cards and how they have really cheered her up during times when she felt so lonely after her family passed away or were placed in care homes.

But it is not just the elderly or the single who we should send cards to, it is perhaps a cousin we haven’t seen for years, an old school friend who is married with kids, a young person who was an intern at our office. It could be anyone, pray and ask the Lord to bring people to your mind and bless them this year through sending them a card.

  1. Get into the Christmas Spirit and transform your physical environment

It is easy when you live alone to think it is too much effort to get into the Christmas Spirit. I remember some years ago I would think, who am I decorating for, why should I bother after all I am all alone again. But then I realized that an undecorated home or room felt even worse than being alone in a decorated one. So this year I would recommend that you to take the time to decorate your house or room for the season. Get a small tree (or a big one!) and decorate it, get some Christmas candles and put them around the house. Find a nativity scene and put it somewhere. Whatever you do let your house or your room reflect the fact that it is Christmas and use the decorations to remind you of the ultimate Christmas gift and that is the gift of Jesus!

Play Christmas music in your home and/or in your car. Download a great Christmas album such as Hillsong’s The Peace Project which has the wonderful song Seasons or Pentatonix’s Christmas album and their spine tingling rendition of Mary Did You Know or perhaps Michael Buble’s (if you prefer the classics) Have Yourself A Merry Christmas. Be uplifted by old and new songs and think about the good tidings of great joy that Christmas brings.

Finally, think about putting something Christmassy on your desk at work that might start a conversation with a co-worker about Christmas and what you believe and why we celebrate. At the very least it will lift your own spirits and keep a physical reminder of God’s love for you in front of your eyes.

It is my belief that as we spend time with Jesus and reach out to others this Christmas we will thrive in our spirit, in our soul and in our lives. The apostle John writes ‘Beloved, I pray in all respects that you may prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers’. God wants us to thrive in life, Jesus said that He came that we might have life and have it in abundance. That doesn’t mean we have an abundant life some of the time that means all of the time and I think it means especially at Christmas.

I think that the devil seeks to demoralize and deactivate single people, he wants to prevent us from living out our heavenly purpose (see this post for more on this topic) of bringing people into the Kingdom of Heaven. One of the ways he does this is through telling us lies that lead us to live half lives. Lies like ‘you need a family to celebrate Christmas’, like ‘I can only get into the Christmas spirit when I have a husband or wife’, or ‘I could handle Christmas better if I was married’, or ‘I can’t wait for Christmas to be over because it is so difficult’. When we listen and start to internalize these lies we begin to believe that Christmas is hard, that Christmas is lonely etc and once we believe this we start to act accordingly. We make little effort, we don’t reach out to others, we basically just assume the spiritual brace position and hold on hoping that the whole season will be over soon. But this is NOT how God intended us to live our lives. God wants us to live whole-hearted lives that look for the good in all circumstances and that expect blessings to come our way. Jesus wants us to pray and believe and receive a wonderful Christmas experience whether we are single or married or widowed or divorced.

The devil is out to destroy the good news of Christmas, he wants the world to forget why they are celebrating and one of the ways he can do this is through stopping Christians from celebrating and telling others the reason for the season. This year don’t let the devil destroy your Christmas and the many opportunities that you will have to share the good news of Jesus’ arrival on this earth with all those around you. I believe that as you share and as you embrace Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Christ your whole perspective and experience of Christmas will shift.

Follow the advice of Steve Backlund and make a list of Christmas declarations such as: this Christmas will be the best Christmas ever; I am one Christmas closer to meeting my future spouse; this Christmas I will be a great source of love and encouragement to all I encounter; I will thrive this Christmas; I will experience unprecedented closeness with friends and family this Christmas; God goes before me this Christmas and makes the crooked paths straight in all my travels and in all my relationships; something special is going to happen this Christmas etc. Make these declarations throughout the month of December and I believe that you will change your beliefs about Christmas and you will see the Lord move in your life like never before!

I pray that God would bless you mightily and that this year would see you thriving not just surviving the Christmas season. If you would like prayer for anything please let me know and I would be so happy to pray for you this month and to believe with you for a wonderful Christmas, in fact the best Christmas so far 🙂

xxx

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