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Forget about the “perfect” Christmas
Amber Albee Swenson
by Amber Albee Swenson
December 18, 2023

If you could change anything, what would it be?

I’m not asking about world peace or cancer.

We’re heading into Christmas, and this is the time of year we notice the things that haven’t gone right: the broken family, the house that isn’t holiday ready, the end of a marriage, the people no longer at the table.

If you could change one thing about your life, what change would you make? Would you make more money, move to a different house, or buy a new car? Would you get married, have a child, or start over and go a completely different way?

Henry David Thoreau is often credited as saying, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with the song still in them.”

Are you one of those people who feel a quiet or not-so-quiet rumble of discontent that feels like desperation?

Stop scrolling through Instagram, and put down the Facebook reels. One more picture of homemade bread or a couple doing a basement remodel is not going to get you out of that discontented funk. But I know what will, and I can almost guarantee it.

#1: The apostle Paul said, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).

When I feel discontented, I need to get out of my own corner of the world and get into a trench with someone else. There’s never a time that I leave the nursing home where I’ve been visiting a loved one that I think, I need more. My only thought is, When can I come back? What else could I do for him or her?

Whether it’s visiting a widow, sitting with the downtrodden, or helping a mom who has her hands full, getting out of my life and stepping into someone else’s resets my contentment dial.

#2: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

We can’t grumble and give thanks at the same time. It’s like trying to sing while gargling. It’s impossible. So if you can only do one, choose to be thankful, if for no other reason than it’s God’s will. Instead of complaining about that uncle who always shows up late and empty handed, thank God that you can be a blessing to your uncle and be thrilled to see him whenever he shows up. Instead of recounting all the reasons you hate your job or noticing all the people who make your job difficult, take note of the people who bless you at work and thank God for a job that pays the bills.

#3: Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” When I’m watchful and noticing all the things I want to pray about, I don’t have time to do much else. Who cares if the carpet is old when there’s a prodigal in the family? When the prodigal returns, we’ll rejoice and maybe even tear out the carpet, but for now I need to pray and watch for opportunities to encourage them to come back to their Father God.

#4: Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” We have it so good that a lot of times we forget to have an eternal mindset. We’re used to taking painkillers and living lives of convenience, so we forget this isn’t all there is. Not even close. This life is chump change, not worth our angst and certainly not worth our discontent. Jesus told us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20).

No matter how great the Christmas gift is, it will lose value or sit in a closet and eventually get thrown away. But focusing on the eternal—bringing the family to worship the newborn King and bringing up why you are grateful for another year of God’s grace—leads to everlasting hope and joy in our Savior.

Forget about the perfect Christmas. Do what Jesus did and climb into the trenches, find reasons to give thanks, devote yourself to prayer, and get into an eternal mindset. You might just have the most eternally rewarding Christmas ever.