Writing this piece in the immediate aftermath of election day is a strange feeling. After all the noise of the past month, election day itself is strangely silent with news blackouts and the big campaigning done. After all the noise of election night we’ve been reminded that the rest of the world still exists, there is news beyond politics, and of course that Christmas is just around the corner.

If there’s one thing elections and the run up to Christmas have in common, it’s noise. Vast quantities of noise. This time we’ve had a double whammy. And just like the election I’m sure there’s many of us longing for the silent peace of Christmas day. The day when the shopping is done (though even that now increasingly happens online), no more parties can happen, presents wrapped or cards be written. And there is peace. No trains. No shops. No noise outside. Just peace.

This Christmas we’ll collectively spend £80bn in the UK. According to the Bank of England the average family will spend £800 extra in December, and CAP suggest we will spend 20% more on food and 30% more on alcohol. This adds to a situation where we already have £8000 average consumer debt (£2300 on credit cards alone) with those caught up in unmanageable debt facing debts of around £15,000to welcome them into 2020. Taken together it’s a festive spirit characterised by overindulgence, consumerism and debt.

All this got me thinking about what it means to get in the festive spirit as followers of Jesus. What does it mean to live God glorifying lives in and through this season that its heart is all about Him? It’s also prompted by the fact that with a toddler at home we now have the awesome responsibility of explaining Christmas, Santa, advent calendars and the rest. Having dodged the Halloween season for one more year (possibly for the last time) no sooner had the pumpkins gone away in our street than Santa appeared on the roof.

So, what might a different way look like? How can we live a different story that connects us with God and shares our Christmas hope with the world?

Glorifying

This is perhaps stating the obvious but the clue is in the name. Our first call in this Christmas season is to glorify God. The first Christmas was characterised by worship. In every decision we take, present we buy, work night out we go on we get to decide how to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. But it is just so easy to get lost in the noise. How often do we find that it’s on Christmas Day itself we haven’t actually spent time with God because so much else is going on? As a family we don’t want to bring up our children gorged on Christmas excess with no Jesus. So we’ve got hold of an advent book, created more space on Christmas Day, softened Santa by telling the story of St Nicholas, and ordered a wooden nativity toy set for them to open (don’t tell them) so we can share the true story and live it out on Christmas Day and others throughout the year.

Simplifying

We’ve also been challenged on simplifying. We’re reminded that the first Christmas was on a material level a pretty simple affair, and Jesus entered the world in a context so far removed from what passes for our western Christmas today. We’re reminded that so many of our brothers and sisters across the world this year will worship in simplicity for fear of their lives. We’re also aware that our buying habits can have so many negative impacts on people and our environment across the world – the world Jesus came to save.

So for us simplifying means buying less, being meaningful in what we do buy and creating space to enjoy the abundant blessings God has given us. We have so much already and in our case at least we really don’t need much more.

Loving

Christmas is also such an amazing time to show and share God’s love with everyone around us. To show hospitality and grace. Whether that’s supporting special events at church or inviting someone over as we simplify we can create amazing space to love one another well. For us that’s inviting neighbours over from our block to meet and spend time with each other and as a family to do some baking to take round as gifts to those nearby. It’s being a friend to someone who’s lonely and inviting others to church. 

Living

Finally, Christmas is about living. Living out our hope and sharing the greatest gift of all. It’s also modelling life in all its fullness and living out the values that mean we don’t get sucked in by the dangers and idols all around. It’s also about living within our means, pointing a different way to life not defined by material possessions. In a world where 35% of people in debt have considered suicide as the only way out of the darkness we get to point to the Light of the World. 

May we glorify, simplify, love and live well this Christmas.

If you are struggling with Debt this Christmas, EA member Christians Against Poverty (CAP) can help. Their Freephone number is 08003280006 or visit the website at https://​capuk​.org/​i​-​w​a​n​t​-​h​e​l​p​/​o​u​r​-​s​e​r​v​i​c​e​s​/​c​a​p​-​d​e​b​t​-​h​e​l​p​/​h​e​l​p​-​i​n​-​s​c​o​tland