By Sam McKeen
We celebrate Thanksgiving this week and soon Christmas and the New Year. It is the time of year when we acknowledge and celebrate the many blessings in our lives. As Christians we have so much to be thankful for. We have even more reason than others to celebrate. Unfortunately, it can be easy to get swept up in all of the busyness and activity. The many distractions mean that you have to be intentional in order to keep the focus on the right things. Here are five ways that you can keep God at the center of your holiday celebrations this year.
1. Remember and celebrate God’s goodness
As we approach the end of the year, it is a natural time to reflect on the many ways that God has demonstrated his goodness to you and your family.
Spend some alone time with God. Read and meditate on Bible verses that focus on God’s promises of love, provision, and grace.
A wonderful way to keep track of God’s acts of goodness is to write them down. This way you have a record that you can reference when you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged. Recording what God is doing will also help you be more intentional in talking with family members and friends about your amazing God.
2. Tell family and friends that you are thankful for them
How often do you tell family and friends that you are grateful for them? Take time to send an encouraging text or mail a card to those close to you. If you are going to be spending time with family members during the holidays, take the opportunity to let them know how much you appreciate them and are thankful for them.
It may be difficult depending on your family relationships, but taking time to share something that you appreciate about them can go a long way towards healing strained familial relationships. Of course, you should be genuine in what you share!
3. Repent and forgive
As you reflect on the past year, spend time asking God to reveal any sin in your life that you have been ignoring. When we repent and ask God for forgiveness, the reality of how much we need His mercy and grace in our lives creates more gratitude in us.
Extend forgiveness to others. Resentment, bitterness, and guilt can weigh heavily on us and consume us if we are not careful. They can distract us from appreciating the goodness of God and the many ways that he has blessed us. Remember, God has forgiven us for our sins. In light of that truth how can we hold a grudge against others? This is even more convicting when you consider that God’s forgiveness is only possible because Jesus gave His life.
4. Count Your Blessings
How often are you expressing thanks to God for the many blessings you experience throughout the year? When you gather with others for a meal during this holiday season, take time to go around the table and have everyone share how God has blessed them this year. This is a great reminder to everyone present of how much they have to be thankful for and it organically points to God as the source of those blessings. (James 1:17)
5. Serve and Bless Others
During this time of year, there are many opportunities to be a blessing to others. God has blessed us greatly. He wants us to bring glory to Him by blessing others. When we bless others, it often creates a chain reaction so that our act of service multiplies.
One way to bless others is by inviting them into your home. Many people are alone during this time of year, and for that reason, it can be a time that they dread. Welcoming and serving people who are alone creates a wonderful opportunity to extend the love of God through hospitality.
There are many other great ways to serve others. Think about your gifts, abilities, and resources. How can you use them to bless someone? Take time to pray and ask God to show you whom He wants you to bless and how to bless them. Always consider how you bless others as you want them to receive the blessing in a way that builds a deeper connection and creates more opportunities to engage with them.
As we approach the beginning of a new year, let’s do so with hearts of thanksgiving and praise. Let’s reflect on the goodness of our God and praise Him. Let’s look forward with eager expectation to what He has in store for us as we live in obedience to Him.