Many of us observe Christmas, but very few of us know how to keep Christmas. Observing Christmas involves getting our Christmas cards addressed, gifts purchased and wrapped, decorations in place, holiday cooking completed, and parties planned and attended. Unfortunately, observing Christmas puts us under a great deal of pressure and stress. Our schedules are packed with an unlimited number of things to do. We become Christmas junkies with more and more to do with less and less time.
It is sad that many of us don’t realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. Yet, it probably will be unless we do something about it right now. We have the opportunity to change. We have the opportunity to choose the type of Christmas that we can have by learning how to keep Christmas. Henry Van Dyke in his classic poem, “Keeping Christmas,” states, “There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas Day. That is the keeping of Christmas… Then if you can keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.”
Keeping Christmas involves being willing to make a grave for your negative thoughts and feelings and a garden for your positive ones. Like barnacles on a ship, it is easy to accumulate many emotional, relational, and spiritual barnacles in our lives. Identify the negative thoughts and feelings in your life today. Ask God to help you make a grave for them and one by one put them to rest in it. Be careful that they are dead. If you aren’t careful, they will come back to haunt you in the future, just like the ghost of Christmas past. Paul said it so well, “Forgetting what is behind and press on toward the goal which is in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13) Very few people had a past that needed to be forgotten any more than the apostle Paul. Make friends with your past and bury it.
Plant a garden of positive thoughts, feelings, and actions. Every day plant a positive seed and carefully nurture it until it becomes a part of you. There are many positive seeds or virtues that we need to plant: faith, hope, joy, kindness, love and understanding. You cultivate this garden daily by reading the Bible, praying and associating with positive faith-oriented people. You also develop these virtues by listening to positive faith-oriented messages, worshiping in a positive Christ centered church and enjoying laughter with good friends.
During this special season may we discover the adventure of keeping Christmas every day. And if you can keep it for one day, why not every day? But remember, you can never keep it alone. You must share it with someone else. See you Sunday in church!