Planning the festive season is fully upon us. So here are my top tips, gained from personal experience, of how to have a completely joy filled Christmas:
1. Invite round people other than your family. We find this means that we all behave far better, motivated by pride and the way others think of us.
It is also what God the Trinity did at Christmas time. He opened his family up to others. To us. And there's no one happier at Christmas time than God!
2. Don't eat so much that you're in pain. This might not be a problem for everyone. But I have found that not ending the day wishing that you had only had the clementines makes for a jollier time. Certainly in the stomach region.
Self-denial rather than self-indulgence is also what God the Son did at Christmas. He limited himself for the sake of others. Taking on human flesh so that he could save us from greed, amongst other sins.
3. Plan your giving more than your receiving. If you're over 18 you know that you're going to be disappointed by your little pile of pressies anyway!
By planning giving, I don't mean giving to friends and family who give presents to us. This is more swapping than giving. I mean trying to make Christmas a time when you give more than usual to the needs of gospel proclamation and practical care for people in Jesus name. Why not try to give away at least as much extra as you spend extra over the Christmas period. After all "...the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35)
4. Meet with God's people. Don't think that the dinner is more important than the church. There are no promises in the Bible that you will experience joy gathered round a turkey, reading bad jokes from crackers (though it can be loads of fun!). But we are promised a feast for our souls from God's word, the Bible, and grateful hearts as we sing songs from the Spirit.
5. Share Jesus. I was reading 1 John 1:1-4 with a friend this afternoon. We were struck by why John says that he has written to tell people how wonderful Jesus is: 1 John 1:4 We write this to make our joy complete.
John knows that he experiences greatest joy when he shares Jesus with others.
It may be a cliché to say that there is no better gift to give at Christmas time than Jesus. But it's true. Both for the person you share the gospel with. And for you!
6. Sedate the children. I'm only joking!