Christmas Pack #15
What Makes a Perfect Christmas?Index for this Section
What Makes a Perfect Christmas?
What makes a "perfect" Christmas? Our responses could be anything from family togetherness to snow on Christmas Eve, from cutting back on Christmas expenses to finding a few moments of peace and solitude. Perhaps we are not even sure what would make Christmas "perfect."
This discussion guide is designed to help you explore your expectations of Christmas. The exercises that follow will lead you to begin to set priorities and plan your holiday practices. Use the guide with an adult study group or a Sunday School class. Though designed to be used during an hour-long session, you can adapt these exercises as needed. Be prepared to provide a copy of this piece to each of the participants in your group and make sure you have at least one Bible handy. You will need a volunteer to read the scripture passage and another to share the closing reading. You may also want to choose a leader(s) to read the discussion questions aloud.
One person should read aloud Luke 2:1-14. Allow for a few moments of silence before reading aloud the following background material. If you prefer, you can encourage the participants to read the background material silently to themselves.
For many of us, Christmas is just too much! There is too much shopping and wrapping, too much baking and cooking, too much party-going and entertaining. By the time the season is over, we are often physically, emotionally and financially exhausted. Just what went wrong? How can we experience the peace, joy and hope promised by the birth of Jesus?
Many different feelings and expectations influence the way we approach the Christmas season. One is past Christmases. We remember cherished childhood memories, and believe . . . it wouldn't be Christmas without those special thumbprint cookies, homemade dinner rolls or embroidered stockings. We remember family outings to cut a tree and fun-filled gatherings of our extended families. We remember joyous caroling and moments of peaceful reflection. We remember the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Christmases past.
In addition to our childhood memories, we are bombarded by advertisements and seasonal articles that tell us overtly or ever so subtly just how to make the perfect Christmas. You've seen the magazines with pages and pages of decadent desserts and the commercials for the latest electronic toys and kitchen gadgets. And don't forget the pressure we might feel from our family, friends and neighbors - to hang twinkling lights on our eaves and to set up a flashing Santa in our yards, to buy our children mountains of gifts so they can compare notes with the Jones' kids, to send Christmas cards to an ever-increasing list of people.
The demands seem never-ending. Pretty soon Christmas becomes a time to check items off to-do lists and fill in the dates on our calendars. Can we stop long enough to ask ourselves, "What makes Christmas meaningful?" What will Christmas hold for us? How can Christmas satisfy the deepest yearnings of our hearts? The answers to those questions are different for each of us.
By identifying our longings and expectations and looking realistically at which of those can be satisfied by Christmas, we can better know how to experience joy and peace. Take a few quiet moments to consider your "perfect" Christmas. What does Christmas mean to you? What are your expectations?
- Think of one memory from Christmases past that influences your expectations of this holiday. Share the story.
- How does advertising affect the way you celebrate? Can you remember any ads that evoked strong feelings? Explain the ad and your feelings to the group.
- What is one strong pressure you feel from another person or group of people? Share your thoughts.
- Share the expectations you listed in the exercise above with those in your group. Are they realistic? Do your expectations conflict with one another? Do they conflict with expectations of others with whom you usually celebrate? Discuss.
What activities and tasks do you participate in during Christmas? Check items that apply and include approximate time you spend on each.
__ planning giving (who and what) ____
__ making gifts ____
__ shopping for gifts ____
__ buying wrapping
__ wrapping packages
__ mailing gifts
__ planning donations to charitable organizations
__ planning decorations
__ purchasing decorations
__ making decorations
__ decorating outside
__ decorating inside
__ purchasing a tree
__ trimming the tree
__ taking down decorations
__ planning food
__ grocery shopping
__ cooking holiday meal(s)
__ cleaning dishes
__ planning a gathering
__ inviting guests
__ cleaning up before
__ grocery shopping
__ cooking for the party
__ cleaning up
__ buying Christmas cards
__ signing and mailing cards
__ reading scripture
__ reflecting on the meaning of Advent and Christmas
__ volunteering for service in the community
__ reading to children
__ planning and participating in home worship
__ helping with activities at church
__ helping with school or community events
Review the list you just completed. Are you happy with how your time and energy are allocated? If not, why not? Which of the activities above cause you the most stress or anxiety? How do these activities relate to what Christmas really means to you? "We want joy, but nevertheless, we spend more time exchanging gifts and snarling at clerks, more time in supermarket gridlocks than we do walking or singing or dancing," notes Donna Schaper in the Nov./Dec. 1990 issue of The Other Side.
The most important part of Christmas for one woman was to have all of her family together. It wasn't until after Christmas that she realized most of her day was spent in the kitchen making the traditional Christmas dinner. Little time was left for visiting. Dream for a moment . . . what would happen if you changed the way you celebrate? What would Christmas be like for you? If you are like the woman above, you could organize your family to cook dinner together, sharing time in the process. Or you could plan a more simple meal. Would Christmas still be Christmas without three kinds of pies? You decide!
What would make the season a more fulfilling and joyful time? List three.
- Were you surprised to find how your time is spent during the holiday season? Do these activities help you realize your expectations?
- What activity causes you the most stress or anxiety? What is the activity most meanigful to you?
- What would make the season more fulfilling and joyful? Share something from the list you just made. Discuss how you can make these more a part of your celebration.
- How might others in your family respond to these changes? Would others be willing to share the load? Discuss.
- Is there time during the season for silent reflection, prayer and scripture reading? Discuss ways you can make room for Jesus this Christmas.
Somewhere in the midst of all the boxes and lists, the cooking and crowds, comes a special gift. Jesus is born, a gift of peace, joy and hope. Many of us forget that everything is not up to us. We cannot "make" Christmas. "Christmas is reassurance," says Donna Schaper. "God become flesh. Heaven bent to earth. Joy come down. And not one of us had anything to do with it. We did not earn this gift. We did not extend effort to achieve this grace. . . . The star shines for everyone. Joy to the world is unpaid for, unbought."
PRAYER: Gracious God, as you surprised people by a tiny baby in a manger so long ago, you surprise us this Christmas. When all around us are bright lights, crowds of shoppers and endless lists, remind us of your presence. Help us to know what Christmas can be and make us open to experiencing the joy and fulfillment promised by the birth of Jesus. Amen.
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Page updated 11 Sept. 2013
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