How Can You Kick the Christmas Habit?

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How Can You Kick the Christmas Habit?

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Maybe you’ve heard that Christmas isn’t all that Christian. Maybe you’re wondering if you should celebrate it at all this year. If you’re not sure, read “Would Jesus Celebrate Christmas?”. And then prove to yourself whether or not you should keep Christmas.

Go on—kick the tires, tug on the seams, look behind the curtain, pull out the microscope. The truth can withstand scrutiny. You won’t hurt its feelings.

There is so much more to family than any one holiday, and you have many opportunities to show your family that you love them.

If you’ve considered the evidence and have decided to kick the Christmas habit, your next question is likely to be, “Well, now what?” That’s what mine was. How do you not celebrate Christmas when everyone around you has put on a Santa hat and put up a tree? How do you keep your relationships with family and friends when you don’t celebrate Christmas anymore? Will they understand?

It can feel like a lonely road with only the strength of your convictions for company, but you are not alone. I too walk this path, as do many others. And most importantly, God the Father and Jesus Christ will be with you. If God is leading you to step out on faith and leave Christmas behind, I’d like to share with you three principles to practice as you take this step: Prepare yourself, honor God and love your family.

Prepare yourself

You’re about to raise some eyebrows, my friend. Breaking with tradition, especially one infused with family and loved by millions, is going to lead to questions and probably disapproval. How are you going to handle this?

First, know why you’re doing this. You’re choosing the road less traveled, and you’ll turn around and go home if you’re motivated by anything other than love of the truth. Carefully examine your reasons and the evidence you use to support your conclusions so you can have confidence in the truth (consider 2 Timothy 2:15 2 Timothy 2:15Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
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).

When Christmas comes around, don’t delay following your newfound conviction to not participate. Don’t tell yourself, “Not right now—just one more year …” In Luke 9:57-62 Luke 9:57-62 57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said to him, Lord, I will follow you wherever you go. 58 And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head. 59 And he said to another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60 Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go you and preach the kingdom of God. 61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow you; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. 62 And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
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, Jesus told people to follow Him. Their excuses were basically: “Not right now. I just need to do this or that first.” His response? “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” If you know what is good to do and choose not to do it, it’s sin (James 4:17 James 4:17Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.
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).

In breaking from celebrating Christmas, especially for the first few years, you’ll find it easier if you don’t just sit at home alone on Christmas Day. Make intentional plans involving activities you enjoy. You may need to be creative, as most businesses will be closed, but planning ahead can help you to see and take advantage of your many choices. If you’re social, be sure your plans include other like-minded people.

If Christmas is very important to your family, expect some resistance to your decision. After all, your family members love you and want you to be with them. Anticipate questions—they’ll probably be many of the same ones you initially had—and think through your answers ahead of time. Be sure your answers are genuinely “you.” Canned responses aren’t going to cut it when your heart’s not in it.

Your choice to not celebrate Christmas may be tested soon after deciding, so begin preparing right away. The questions may not come for a while, but then again, they may come tomorrow.

Several years ago I decided not to celebrate Christmas that year. That was on a Thursday. On Friday, the very next day, my mother called to ask what I would like for Christmas. Knowing your reasons and having an answer will help the conversation to proceed more gently and with less defensiveness (especially on your part), whenever it occurs. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 1 Peter 3:15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
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, New International Version).

Honor God

Just as the apostles declared, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29 Acts 5:29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
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), we must obey God over the desires of our family and friends. What will you do when you’re stuck between the Rock and a hard place?

Pray and, if you can, fast before talking with your family. Prayer and fasting helps us to seek God’s way instead of our own. Our way may seem right to us, but only God sees the whole picture (Proverbs 21:2 Proverbs 21:2Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD ponders the hearts.
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). When we submit our plans to God and trust in Him, He establishes the best paths and helps us to follow them (consider Proverbs 3:5-6 Proverbs 3:5-6 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.
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and Proverbs 16:3 Proverbs 16:3Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts shall be established.
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).

God has good plans for us, and He will come through for us. He reminds us in Jeremiah 29:11 Jeremiah 29:11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
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: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God promises to give us the words to say when we need them, just as Jesus Christ told His disciples in Matthew 10:19-20 Matthew 10:19-20 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak. 20 For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you.
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. When we sincerely submit our will to God, we are less likely to speak rashly (consider Proverbs 16:1 Proverbs 16:1The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.
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).

Ask God for wisdom in your interactions with family and friends. When we ask for wisdom, He promises to give it generously (James 1:5 James 1:5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraides not; and it shall be given him.
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) He expects you to do good to all (Galatians 6:10 Galatians 6:10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.
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) and to love them as you love yourself (Mark 12:31 Mark 12:31And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
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). God knows how to help you in your relationships with others. Ask Him. Your Father is waiting to help you.

Be “all in”

Don’t be wishy-washy. You might think you’re being nice to your family and friends by “kind of” participating a little to spare their feelings. However, you may just be prolonging their hope that you’ll “come to your senses” and change your mind.

Jesus told His disciples that “he who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37 Matthew 10:37He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
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). Yes, we are to love our family, but we are to love God and His way more. When the two conflict, God must come first, even when it’s difficult.

God wants us to love Him with our whole heart, not just part of it. Immediately before Jesus reminded the scribes that they must love their neighbor as themselves, He explained how they are to love God first: “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30 Mark 12:30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment.
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).

You cannot keep both Christmas and God’s law (consider James 4:4 James 4:4You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
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and Luke 16:13 Luke 16:13No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
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), as the former breaks the latter. Breaking God’s law is sin (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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)—even just “kind of” breaking it a little (James 2:10 James 2:10For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
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) to spare someone’s feelings.

Observe God’s Holy Days

Did you know that God has set aside special festivals and Holy Days of His own, to teach us about His plan for you and me and all people?

When you keep God’s festivals instead of man’s holidays like Christmas and Easter, you can make these days special times for you and those of your family who share your beliefs. God wants you to understand His plan for you and all humanity, why you exist, and what the purpose of life is, and He teaches us about these things every year through His annual festivals and every week through His Sabbath.

One of the strongest appeals of Christmas is found in your senses—glowing decorations, special foods, smells of pine and cinnamon, sounds and music. Incorporate all of your senses into how you keep the Sabbath and God’s festivals to help make them a delight to you and your like-minded family. God’s weekly and annual Sabbaths are special times set aside by God for you. Consider preparing for them as you might an honored guest, and enjoy them as the blessing God intends.

Love your family

Christmas is all about family, right? But family is not all about Christmas. There is so much more to family than any one holiday, and you have many opportunities to show those of your family that you love them.

But you may not find acceptance with some family and friends on this issue no matter what you do. Realize that Jesus said that His truth would often lead not to peace but to division even in families—and that He must come first in our lives no matter what (Matthew 10:34-39 Matthew 10:34-39 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it.
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).

So accept that some people will be offended or disapproving. You should honor the role they have in your life by being sensitive to them and doing what you can to minimize their perceived offense (Romans 12:18 Romans 12:18If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.
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), but there may come a point where you can genuinely do no more. You are not responsible for how they choose to feel and respond after that. Keep in mind that they won’t understand until God helps them to understand in the time that is best for them (consider 2 Corinthians 3:14-16 2 Corinthians 3:14-16 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil not taken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.
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and Luke 24:45 Luke 24:45Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
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).

Until then, you will have to be patient and gentle, and sometimes even a little thick-skinned. You should try to not take it personally and be forgiving, as they are misguided for now (consider Jesus’ example in Luke 23:34 Luke 23:34Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
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), but expect that it’s still going to sting.

A friend shared some treasured advice that helps when my feelings are hurt by my family’s disapproval. She encouraged me to remember that, when they do eventually understand, my parents will be proud of me for standing strong and true, even in the face of their own disapproval. In the meantime, my job is to continue standing strong and true and to honor them, so that I can keep a clear conscience before my God and my family (consider 1 Peter 3:16 1 Peter 3:16Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
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).

People may still feel offended, but it can be eased somewhat by agreeing on expectations outside of the heat of the moment. Do what you can to help avoid situations that could cause bitterness (see Hebrews 12:14-15 Hebrews 12:14-15 14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
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). For example, don’t surprise them with your news in the middle of the family Christmas dinner!

As early as possible and at a reasonable opportunity, have a respectful conversation with the people who share Christmas traditions with you. Very simply—this is not the time for all your reasons and details—share with them that you are choosing not to celebrate Christmas but that spending time with them is important to you, and work out how to accomplish both goals.

If you can have these conversations before you receive invitations to holiday parties and before the family gatherings are planned, it can help to separate your decision not to keep Christmas and your response to their event.

It’s your job to love them, not convince them

It is not your job to convince them to give up Christmas. (Don’t try it. It doesn’t end well.) You are not likely to change their minds with an abundance of passionate words. But you do have a very serious responsibility to be able to give an answer, which is why you need to know why you’re doing this and have proven it to yourself ahead of time.

You may be the only one another person meets who doesn’t observe Christmas. That person may well ask you why, and yours might be the only explanation he or she ever hears about why someone wouldn’t celebrate it.

Understand and respect that others feel as strongly about observing Christmas as you now do about not observing it. Don’t look down on them for not understanding what you previously didn’t understand either. Instead, be intentional about maintaining connections with family and friends for whom Christmas is important.

They may feel personally rejected, and explaining to them that you’re rejecting Christmas, not them, probably isn’t going to convince them—especially as your choice to not celebrate Christmas will likely be taken as judgment on their observance. When it comes to continuing love and respect, your actions will speak louder than your words. In John 13:35 John 13:35By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
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, Jesus reminds us that the mark of being His disciple is that we love each other. Love is shown by your actions.

Consider taking 1 Peter 3:8-9 1 Peter 3:8-9 8 Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that you are thereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing.
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as a personal mission statement when interacting with your family and friends: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

Find common ground

How can you and your family and friends make this work, especially if you share a home with people who want to celebrate Christmas?

Start out by acknowledging that you don’t have the same beliefs about Christmas but that you all have the same desire for every person to feel comfortable in their own home. Communicate about expectations and set mutually agreed-on boundaries well ahead of time so that everyone feels heard and considered.

Accept that you are likely to misstep at some point—this is new for you as much as it is for them. Ask for forgiveness when you have caused undue offense. And finally, be patient (James 1:19-20 James 1:19-20 19 Why, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.
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) and forgiving (Matthew 6:14-15 Matthew 6:14-15 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
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)—this is new for them as much as it is for you. As Paul encouraged in Ephesians 4:2 Ephesians 4:2With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love;
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, “[bear] with one another in love …”

Seek counsel from others who have gone through situations similar to yours (consider Proverbs 19:20 Proverbs 19:20Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter end.
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). They will likely be willing to share what did and didn’t work well for them.

Your relationships with family members and friends involve far more than Christmas celebrations. Instead of focusing on the few events related to Christmas, actively focus on all the other days of the year. Go overboard for other events that you can share—Thanksgiving, Independence Day, anniversaries, reunions and other special occasions—or create new traditions with your family and friends.

Support activities that are important to your friends and family, such as encouraging them in their work or attending their children’s sporting events. Be intentional about contacting and visiting with your family and friends more often, investing in your relationships throughout the year.

I’d like to share one final piece of advice from another traveler on this path: Stay convicted, and be kind. You have the awesome responsibility and privilege of representing God’s way of life to your friends and family, and you will be known by what your life produces (Matthew 7:20 Matthew 7:20Why by their fruits you shall know them.
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). As you prepare yourself, honor God, and love your family, don’t lose heart. “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9 Galatians 6:9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
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).

God’s plans for family— your family—far exceed what Christmas could ever hope to represent. I encourage you to study God’s festivals, to know the awe-inspiring good that God wants for you and your family. By kicking the Christmas habit, you are taking a step of faith toward trusting God and His plan for your life.

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Advice From Those Who Have Kicked the Habit

Here are suggestions from others who have walked this path before you. They offer them with love and understanding and the hope that you and your family may benefit from their experiences.

• If you live with people who celebrate Christmas—a spouse, parents, children, roommates—you may be able to negotiate that some areas be free of decorations and that Christmas movies and music be limited to certain times.

• If you share a bank account with a spouse who celebrates Christmas, agree on an amount he or she can spend on presents for family and friends.

• If someone gives you or your children a gift, do not hand or send it back. Just say thank you, simply and with gratitude instead of grimaces, and explain your preferences at a later time.

• Focus on the beliefs that you have in common, such as Jesus’ example and the need for a Savior.

• If someone pits part of the family against the other part (for example, saying, “We have to do this because of so-and-so,”) deal with it quickly, privately and respectfully (consider Proverbs 15:18 Proverbs 15:18A wrathful man stirs up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeases strife.
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).

• Accept that the Christmas season will be tense, at least for a while. As much as you can, keep the peace (Romans 12:18 Romans 12:18If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.
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).

• Remember that God has a plan for your family and friends, too, in the time that is best for them (consider 2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
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and 1 Timothy 2:4 1 Timothy 2:4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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).