The Rev. Billy Graham has shared three tips for keeping Christ at the center of Christmas celebrations and warned that far too many people get so busy around the holidays, they never stop to remember Who they're celebrating.
"First, set aside time each day to focus on that first Christmas," the founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association wrote in a recent blog post. "When you eat together as a family, pause not only to thank God for the gift of your food, but to thank Him for His greatest gift-the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. In addition, each day set aside a few minutes to read about the birth of Jesus from the Bible. (You can find this in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.)"
Second, look ahead during the next few weeks, and set aside time for something special. It could something simple, like a Christmas concert or Christmas pageant in your church.
"Make sure you also attend your church's regular services during the Christmas season; this will help you focus on Christ," Graham advised.
Third, look ahead to next year, the pastor said.
"Plan your time more wisely, so you don't fall into the same trap a year from now. Most of all, let this Christmas be the beginning of a journey for your family that lasts all year long-a journey with Christ. The Bible says that after the shepherds had seen Jesus, 'they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child' (Luke 2:17)."
Nearly a quarter of Americans reported feeling "extreme stress" come holiday time, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association, and forty-five percent of Americans would prefer to skip Christmas due to stress, according to a survey from Think Finance and reported on www.nbcnews.com.
In an earlier post, Graham cautioned that overspending is actually a "spiritual problem" and shared tips for remaining within budget - and alleviating stress - this holiday season.
"Is it wrong to want to pick up bargains as you shop for Christmas presents? No, not really; we all love a good bargain, and the Bible encourages us to be thrifty," he said. "But how often do you end up buying more than you intended to buy, or spending more than you intended to spend? And how often do you end up angry or frustrated or exhausted, because you've had to fight the crowds or spent too much time searching for one last present?"
To not overspend this Christmas, Graham advised planning ahead, making a list, writing out a budget, and setting aside some time for rest.
"Be thoughtful about your gifts, also; don't try to impress someone or win their goodwill by buying something you really can't afford (and they don't really need). Set aside time also for special events-a Christmas concert, a special ride to see the lights, etc," he said.
He concluded: "The most important thing you can do, however, is to put Christ at the center of your Christmas-and your life. 'In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind' (John 1:4)."