Christmas Challenge No. Three:
Simplify Your Holiday Activities

by Mary E. Stephens

1 Peter 4:3-4 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:

If you have not read the first page of this challenge,
you might wish to do so.

What is this madness that people get into for a month or more prior to Christmas? They are running to parties, shopping, attending events (recitals, plays, programs, cantatas, practices), shopping, cooking and baking in excess, shopping, etc.? And, I should mention shopping.  What does all that have to do with the Lord Jesus Christ? Or even the supposed celebration of His birth? (And, I'm not even going to discuss here what the origins of Christmas revelings are, which would necessitate another whole class of considerations entirely. You can find more on that here.)

If I told you that we celebrated my dad's birthday by running around to all kinds of mostly unrelated events for a month or more before the actual day would you think that was a bit odd? Be honest here. Yet, that is what a lot of people do, claiming that it is "for Jesus." What? Show me that in the Bible.

Some people might wonder why I put this after getting rid of Santa Claus.  The reason is that I think in some ways Santa will be easier for some folks to get rid of.  He is an obvious lie and distraction from the reasons people claim for this season.  It will probably be harder to simplify your life on this holiday. On top of that, this is the most sentimental, nostalgic holiday of the year. Absolutely. So, on top of all the extra activities are the required traditions, both church and family, that "can't" be avoided or left undone. Also, it is the most emotionally draining time of the year. After it is over some people actually suffer from depression similar to what many mothers have after they give birth.

Maybe it's time to choose a simpler plan for your "celebration." Not only will it save you money; you will also have time to focus more on your family (especially your children whom you claim you must have Christmas for); you will be less emotionally exhausted; and most of all you will have more time, energy and resources to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Wouldn't that be a novel idea?)

So, this challenge is about letting go of extra activities so that you can "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace." And, may I just say that He Himself is so much more wonderful than all of the things and activities that people imagine they need for Christmas.

Romans 14:17-19 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

The first word of advice here, then, is to choose your activities carefully and wisely. Start cutting out extras that are non-essential, and be honest with yourself about what is essential.

  1. Stop the shopping marathon. As mentioned previously, you can get your shopping done early - before November even. Ok, I'm a procrastinator myself By the way, you won't have to be out so much with all those sick people either, so you will be less likely to catch something. In the northern climates you won't be forced to drive on slippery roads to "get your shopping done."  It's something to think about. on too many things, so I know this can be a real challenge. But, I also know it can be done because some people do it. Write it on your calendar for June and then get the job done! :-)  Sure, you won't be running around in all the excitement and decor in December, er....November...or October....wait we saw Christmas stuff up on Labor Day weekend in September this year! Ugh! But, don't you think you might enjoy the holidays more if you weren't in a kerfuffle to get all those last minute things done? You want this to be a joyful celebration of Christ's birth and yet you get yourselves so distracted that you only have time to think about it for an hour or two a week at a church meeting or program and maybe for a few minutes on Christmas when you read the story of His birth from the Bible. Hello?

  2. Skip the parties, particularly anything that isn't directly related to church family My dad was invited to the office party of an unsaved doctor one year. This was a man whom he had some testimony with, and so he decided to go for the Gospel's sake. He went later in the time frame that was given. This was to the embarrassment of the doctor because his nurses and personnel were all drunk or tipsy by then and were ignoring the expensive food that was on the buffet. The doctor told my dad, "Next year come earlier. You'll enjoy it more"  My dad did this, and I'm not sure if he even went again after that. But, you get the idea. or your own family. Unless you have a good reason, especially eliminate anything that is worldly in nature and where there is drunkenness and gluttony involved.

    But, the parties are so fun, I know. Really, though, what do they have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ? Maybe a few "Christmas carols" are sung at the Christians ones, but do even those parties really edify, or is it just "fun"? Do they cause you grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ... (2 Peter 3:18)? If you think these questions are unfair, please recall that you claim to be doing these things because you are celebrating the birth of the Lord Jesus. What do you think His opinion would be of the parties you attend?  Does He have the preeminence in all these events that you claim are in His honor?? Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. True, feasting is acceptable in the scriptures, but too much of what goes on in the name of Christ at Christmas time doesn't remind one much of the ways of the Lord. It smacks more of running to excess of riot (see the verse at the top of page).

  3. Bow out of the Christmas programs, non-essential church activities, musicales and recitals. This will undoubtedly make someone mad (both that I wrote this, and at you if you do it). But, there are times when you have to choose between what is good for you and your family (for health, strength, etc.) and all those extra curricular activities, including non-essential church events. 
    Now I hear some people saying, "Well if you celebrate your own birthday, then you are a hypocrite if you don't celebrate Christ's." This is an old rag, and it's used to excuse way more than it's worth. But, I'd like to point out that we do not celebrate our own birthdays in the congregation of the believers, and there is no scripture to support the celebration of Jesus' birth in the church either.  If you want to celebrate it at home, there's nothing against that in scripture that I can see thus far, but it certainly is not commanded to the church.
    Yes, I know that some of you consider the church Christmas program or cantata essential. So, make that your "big event" and bow out on the other things. Remember this is a choice here. And, by the way, I'd like to see where in the Bible it says that Christmas programs and cantatas are essential. I don't mean show me the birth of Jesus, I mean show me where it says we should have a special program about or because of it. So, if it isn't there, then it isn't an essential part of church life and we are not all obligated to participate. I didn't say it was evil, friends; I said it was non-essential. Please note that. Besides, I think that a lot more could be done for the Gospel of Jesus Christ if the church put its' efforts into something more practical and effective, but I won't grind that down too closely.

There are other aspects of simplifying in other challenges, but since I address them as separate subjects I'll not deal with them here.

In conclusion to this, however, the gist of this challenge is to reduce your running to and fro, and in place of it to be at peace and rest with your loved ones and most of all with the Lord. Do you truly think that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is honored by the hectic running to and fro? Can the world see Jesus in you when your so-called celebration of His birth is so hectic that you don't have time to focus on Him, to feed the hungry, to care for the dying, to comfort the brokenhearted; in short, to do the things that He did? Please prayerfully consider this.

1 Corinthians 10:31
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink,
or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

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Photos, graphics and background by Mary Stephens
vintage graphics: unknown
Updated Dec. 2022
Original afghan made by my sister. :-)