DEAR DR. GRAHAM: I’m already depressed about Christmas. Last year, we resolved not to spend as much money or get so busy, but I can already tell that it’s not going to happen. How we can make Christmas what it ought to be, instead of this rat race? — Mrs. E.W.J.
DEAR MRS. E.W.J.: I suspect countless readers feel exactly like you do; the holiday season has become so busy and so commercialized that we hardly have time to stop and think about its true meaning.
But it shouldn’t be this way, nor does it need to be. You can still take steps to make this Christmas a less stressful and more spiritual time. Let me suggest three words that might help you. First, simplify. Make a list of all the things you have to do between now and Christmas, then cut out everything you possibly can. Not everything is important or necessary; do what you can to simplify your life.
Then plan. Many of us frantically jump from one thing to another around Christmas, simply because we haven’t planned ahead. But even a little planning can add hours to your day. And don’t feel you have to carry the whole load; get your family to help with projects.
Most of all, focus; that is, deliberately take time every day to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Read together from the Bible’s account of Jesus’ birth, and thank God for sending His Son into the world for our salvation. Especially help your children discover the wonder of God’s love for us. The Bible says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
DEAR DR. GRAHAM: I’m in the county jail for the third time this year, once again for something minor. Each time, I’ve said I’m going to do better, but then I get sucked into doing something wrong and end up back here. Why am I such a weak person? I’m about to give up on myself. — R.T.
DEAR R.T.: You may be about to give up on yourself, but let me assure you that God isn’t about to give up on you! God loves you, and you’re very valuable to Him, so valuable that He sent His only Son into the world to give His life for you.
And because God loves you, He doesn’t want you to throw away your life, which you could easily do. Instead, He wants to help you put your feet on a different path from the one you’re now following. How can it happen? You can’t change your life on your own; you’ve already tried and failed. You need God’s help, and He wants to give it to you. The Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
The first step is to turn to Jesus Christ, confessing your sins and your need of help to Him, and asking Him to come into your life as your Savior and Lord. When you do, He will come to live within you by His Spirit. He’ll also give you a new desire to do what’s right.
Then take practical steps to overcome temptation. For example, flee from situations and people that might pressure you into doing things you know are wrong.
Instead, find a church where you can meet people who will help you. The Bible says, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
DEAR DR. GRAHAM: I know we’re supposed to love everybody if we’re good Christians, but isn’t that unrealistic? Some people just aren’t very lovable (including some of our relatives we’ll have to be with at Christmas). It’s all I can do to put up with them for a few hours. — Mrs. N.L.
DEAR MRS. N.L.: You’re right: Some people aren’t all that easy to love. (They may think the same thing about us!) But Jesus’ command is clear: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
The key is to ask God to help you begin to look at others the same way He does. This doesn’t mean you overlook their faults or pretend they don’t exist; after all, God sees us just as we are, including our sins and our faults. He also yearns for us to get rid of them and become better people, and when we come to Christ, He puts His Spirit within us to change us and help us overcome sin’s power.
But God loves us in spite of our faults.
If He didn’t, He never would have sent His Son into the world to give His life for our salvation. And when we begin to see people through His eyes, we’ll begin to love them the same way He does — in spite of their faults. We’ll also begin to face our own sins and shortcomings, and we’ll realize that apart from God’s grace we aren’t any better than they are.
As you approach the holidays ask God to give you an extra measure of patience. But most of all, ask God to help you love others the same way Christ has loved you — freely and beyond measure. It may not change them (at least at first) — but it certainly will change
Send your queries to “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-877-2-GRAHAM, or go to www.billygraham.org.