The Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” tells the story of a bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation into a gentler, kindlier man after visitations by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. But did you know that the name Ebenezer comes from the Bible?
It is a perfectly fitting name for the miserly Mr. Scrooge. He not only hated Christmas, but he was also greedy and quite selfish. In the Bible, Ebenezer means “stone of hope”. Scrooge fits the description perfectly as he goes from being a cold-hearted, stone-faced, stingy old grouch, to becoming a hilariously generous giver of money (and holiday hope) to Tiny Tim and the rest of the poor Cratchit family. Scrooge serves as an excellent Christmas object lesson for us all.
Pope John Paul II said, “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” Let’s face it folks; we are for the most part very selfish people. I mean look, we are living in the age of the selfie!
And many of us would quickly admit that there is probably no more selfish time of the year than the days that begin on Black Friday and end on December 25th. Yet there is perhaps no better time to say goodbye to a selfish attitude than during the time when people tend to be the most selfish.
Americans on average waste more money during this month-long stretch than just about any other time throughout the year. I have to admit that I sometimes want to pull a “Christmas With The Kranks” move and cancel it all! But as a Christian who also happens to be married with children, that is simply not going to be an option for me–don’t worry family, I joyfully choose to celebrate Christmas with you!
Rather than excuse myself from the most wonderful time of the year, I have decided to take a look back over the years to see if I could remember the best Christmases I ever had. I wanted to see if there were any common denominators I might glean from them to make this Christmas equally as special.
To my surprise I found three key common denominators that were more prevalent at those times than during any of the other less-than-best Christmases I experienced. As I thought on them, an acronym for the word ELF came to mind. Here are what I believe to be three simple ways to have your best Christmas ever. Get ready to kiss your little ChristmaSELF goodbye for a while…
E – ESTEEM OTHERS BETTER THAN YOURSELF
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3)
I can recall one particular Christmas during a drive from Virginia Beach to New Jersey to celebrate with my wife, daughter and the rest of the family. It was a bitter-cold December evening when I pulled into a gas station on the eastern shore. This skinny guy came out of a little booth to pump my gas for me. His hands were as red as Santa’s suit! I asked him if he had a pair of gloves. He said that he did not, so I reached over to my passenger seat, picked up a brand new expensive pair of leather and fleece gloves I had just bought myself that day and handed them to him.
His eyes lit up like a little kid at Christmas as he said, “I can’t take these nice gloves man!” To which I said, “Man, I can’t keep these nice gloves. Please take them, and have a Merry Christmas!” The look on his face made it all worth it! I could have reminded myself of how expensive the gloves were, how new they were, or how he would make them filthy and worn with pumping gas and checking people’s oil. But I couldn’t help but see him as more deserving of those gloves than me.
L – LOOK OUT NOT ONLY FOR YOU, BUT FOR OTHERS
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:4)
After that incident, I decided to try to stay alert for more opportunities like that. I started to see people everywhere who could use a little help or just a simple gesture of kindness to remind them that somebody out there does care. I started buying extra pairs of gloves, and sometimes even hats and scarfs.
I also decided to try to keep a few extra dollars tucked away in my car at all times in case I came across someone who could really use it. I’ve given away thousands of dollars like that I’m sure. I can say that I have had some of my best Christmases ever when I made those extra efforts during the holidays.
F – FORGET NOT WHOSE BIRTHDAY IT IS
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5)
I have found this final point to be the most important of them all. Think about this for a moment. When you take your children to the birthday party of another child, do your children kick and scream and demand to have their way there, or do they usually want to make sure that they have a gift to bring with them to the party?
Remembering that it is Jesus’ birth we are celebrating is something that I’ve tried to instill in my children early on. The more they were reminded of that, the less demanding they were at Christmas. Shhh! Here’s a little secret! The less demanding they became, the more irresistible it became to their father to go all out for them at Christmas. You think the heavenly Father feels the same way when we remember to focus on His Son’s interest in others? I know from experience that He does.
Yes, we use Christmas to celebrate Jesus’ birth, while we get all the gifts. And there was one gift that He gave that was greater than all the others–He died for all of our sins. We must never forget that Jesus gave everything for us, and He expects us to be willing to give everything for others. You can be sure about one thing, the more we give, the more the Lord gives to us in all sorts of wonderful ways.
I hope that you will try to put these three thoughts into practice right away! ESTEEM others better, LOOK out not only for you, and FORGET not whose birthday it is. Know that while you are selflessly focusing on being a blessing to others, God cannot resist being an even greater blessing to you! You don’t have to be frightened into joyful generosity, like Ebenezer Scrooge. A little Christ-like sELFlessness will do.
May this be your BESTest, most selfLESS Christmas ever!