Cookie crumbs scattered on the counter, dirty dishes piled in the sink, and wrapping paper stuffed into the garbage.
Friends and family come and gone, memorable moments captured and posted, and leftover ham packed and frozen.
I’m not sure why, but such telltale relics of Christmas always make me feel a little blue, a little gloomy, a little downhearted.
Can anybody relate?
It probably has something to do with the fact that we have spent the last six to eight weeks preparing for celebration and surprise, feasts and festivity.
And at the root of all that planning, we have been thinking about others: our children and parents and siblings and spouses; our friends and neighbors and co-workers and hairdressers; the imprisoned, the poor, the homeless, the hungry.
It’s almost over.
Here’s the thing, though: God doesn’t ask us to be others-centered for just a season; He calls us to be others-centered for a lifetime.
So I’d like to carry Christmas and all that love-others focus right on past Christmas day.
You, too? Yes?
Let’s try this:
7 Ways to Carry Christmas into the New Year
1. Listen. As you move through each day, quiet yourself to listen carefully to the compelling voice of the Holy Spirit. He may ask you to do something specific to extend God’s love. Are you supposed to buy groceries for the single mom down the street? Does He want you to pay the mortgage of a stranger around the corner? Be still and know that God constantly speaks… we just need to get better at listening!
2. Write. Although your hand may still be cramped from writing and addressing 432 Christmas cards, experiment this year by writing a letter of gratitude, a note of apology, an expression of encouragement, a request for forgiveness or a message of love – and deliver it when it will be least expected.
3. Visit. Surprise a long-lost relative by dropping in for a cup of tea; make a new friend at the local assisted-living complex; call on the homeless shelter to see if there are children who need tutoring or play time; pop in at the prison to connect with a convict. And while you’re doing all this visiting, expect, embrace and move through the awkwardness because the reward of relationship will be worth the effort.
4. Create. Make something for someone else: cookies for a lonely neighbor; a quilt for a nursing home resident who has no visitors; a bookshelf for the local children’s library; a scrapbook a for faraway relative; a care package for a soldier or missionary family.
5. Give. Supply food pantries with food… in January and March and July (not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas). Donate to your favorite charities every month. Award hard-working teachers and pastors and social workers – anyone you see making a difference – with a gift certificate for a cup of coffee or a lunch on you.
6. Serve. Teach an adult to read at your local library. Coach a sport at the YMCA. Tutor a child after school. Help a struggling family to budget their finances. Facilitate a Bible study at church. Drive an ailing neighbor to doctor appointments.
7. Remember. If Christmas celebrates the arrival of Jesus Christ, then every day – not just on Christmas day – we can choose to commemorate His presence by loving others in real and practical ways… not just for a season, but for a lifetime.
Christmas blessings to you now AND next month,