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As the year 2013 comes to a close I find myself running from holiday party to Christmas shopping, to more holiday parties, with barely a moment to spare. Besides the busyness of the season, one of the reasons I don’t have much extra time could have something to do with the upcoming adoption of my son which has definitely turned my world upside down – in a good way. In a season that is usually very focused on ourselves, my wife and I have found our perspective radically changed. To put it mildly, my focus has shifted. It has shifted from me to my new son. To a life focused on self to a life…well, a little less-focused on self (I still have a long way to go before I’m entirely selfless).

As a Christian one phrase I’ve often heard said during this time of the year is “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate his birth, a birth that would ultimately lead to the most important and selfless act, as Jesus later willingly gives his life. The challenge we face in our consumer driven society today is to actually keep the real meaning of Christmas at the center of our celebration. This is always difficult for me as I can get so focused on buying stuff and giving my family ideas of what to buy for me that I lose sight of what this the season is supposed to be reminding me of.

It’s no coincidence that two areas that are the biggest focus this time of year- gifts and relationships- are also the same ones that can cause people to dread the Christmas season the most. While gift giving will always be a main focus of the season, there are many people in our community that barely have enough money to buy food, let alone presents, for their kids. For them Christmas can be a time where the overwhelming commercialism serves as a constant reminder of their shortcomings.

Many amazing people and organizations in our community reach out during this time of the year to make Christmas special and help meet the needs of those in our community – selflessly giving and taking the time to serve those who have fallen on hard times. Because of their effort we also have an opportunity to partner with them. Whether it’s donating a gift or just dropping spare change in a bucket, your selfless act of giving has the potential to bring light and hope to someone’s life this year.

The second area that can be a struggle this time of year is in our relationships. For many of us this is a time of reuniting with family and friends and enjoying the blessing of the relationships that we have. Unfortunately this time of year also brings to the surface the pain of relationships that have been lost. Whether because of death, estrangement, or other circumstances – intense loneliness and even mourning is often a byproduct of the Christmas season. Our ability to fill the relational void in people’s lives requires more intentional individual action than simply donating a gift or money. Giving of ourselves and our time can be a far more sacrificial act. It may mean inviting someone to a family gathering that isn’t family, sharing a meal, or just listening to and acknowledging the challenges and hurts of life. I often find the hardest part of my life to be selfless with is my time. But giving time can be a gift far more valuable than a wrapped present.

As the hands and feet of Jesus, let’s take the time this season to let the universal message of Christ’s love speak through the commercialism and self-centeredness of our society.  Imagine what this season could like if we did?