How To Experience Jesus This Christmas
Take a deep breath. You’ve almost made it.
The rush of the holiday season—your sprint from Thanksgiving to Christmas—is almost over. I hope that the last month has been full of happy, fun moments. But I’m guessing you’ve had your fill of stressful, not-so-good times, too. The pace and hype of holidays come with pressure to have the right kind of fun, make the right kinds of memories, and make the most of the season.
On top of the cultural draw to experience a Hallmark-movie-level Christmas, as Christians, we also want to anticipate and celebrate the miraculous gift of God incarnate. We live in the tension that comes with following Jesus in a secular world all year, but it’s amplified in the lead-up to Christmas.
When we stop long enough to assess the state of our souls, we’ll find we’re scattered and hurried, disembodied in a digital age where we simultaneously experience being everywhere “with” everybody but also nowhere and alone. And our pluralistic society means we have feet in different worlds, longing to be all-in somewhere (maybe wanting it to be with Jesus) but not living like we know who we belong to.
Take another deep breath.
This is the very place God chose to enter. You don’t have to resolve the tension to experience Jesus’s presence. He meets you in the mess and invites you to be with him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Advent is a season in the church’s traditional liturgical calendar for anticipating Jesus’s coming. It runs for four weeks leading up to Christmas day and is a time to recognize our already-but-not-yet hope—feeling thankful that Jesus is setting the world right while also lamenting the pain and darkness of life before his work is completed.
But Advent is followed by another season we often overlook—Christmastide. Traditionally, this starts on Christmas day and runs for twelve(ish) days of celebration and feasting. Advent is the time for lament and longing. Christmastide is a season of joyful confidence in the hope we have in Jesus.
Whether you’ve spent this Advent season lamenting or you’re worn down by the holiday rush—Christmastide may be a chance to experience Jesus in a new way. Instead of the hurry, displacement, and disembodiment, your soul is longing for through community, embodiment, continuity, and stability.
Create space to experience Jesus this Christmas by extending your celebration beyond December 25th—into the traditional season of Christmastide. Here are five ways to help your soul get what (and who) it’s longing for:
1. Get Outside
Stepping away from your artificial, closely controlled environment is the quickest way to notice God’s hand in the world. Whether you head to a nearby park or nature area, take a walk in your neighborhood, or simply step out onto your back porch—spend time outside. Take deep breaths of winter air, listen to the sounds of creation around you, and slow down enough to watch something you’ve never noticed before. This slowing and attention will help you get outside yourself and reorient you toward Jesus.
2. Feast with friends and family.
Many modern American Christians fail to celebrate well. The early church spent weeks of the year celebrating the goodness of God with their communities (taking their cue from ancient Israel). You can do this, too!
Now that you’re through most of your holiday party sprint, send a text to friends or family who have encouraged you in your faith this year. Invite them to carry-in food or drinks—keep it simple!—and gather around your table to enjoy each other, remembering God’s faithfulness. Laugh together, have fun, and share stories about times you’ve been excited, comforted, or encouraged by your relationship with God.
3. Unplug from the Internet.
Nothing messes with your sense of place and body like spending hours a day online. Your finite mind is assailed with infinite messages and images competing for your love (and time), giving you a false sense of being everywhere with everybody. Give yourself the break you may not know you need. Pick a day (or more!) to unplug from the internet: no social media, no streaming services, no online shopping. Instead, be in the present—that’s where you’ll encounter Jesus.
4. Reset your physical rhythms.
God created us as beings with whole bodies. Unfortunately, many of us take this for granted, completely separating our view of self and faith from our physicality. In reality, your physical well-being is closely related to your spiritual well-being. If you’re feeling off with God, it may be because your body is also off. The solution? Food, sleep, exercise. These three work together to give your body the support and rest it needs to thrive.
For the next week, practice going to bed at the same time each night, refraining from screens, and not eating or drinking anything but water for an hour before bedtime. Add more fruits and veggies to your meals. And once a day, move your body enough to get your heart rate up.
The goal here: help your body feel good by giving it a break from what you typically ask of it. This physical reset will allow your heart and mind to reset, too.
5. Invite Jesus into all of it.
Jesus is not a religious afterthought to fit into your normal life. Instead, he—the Prince of Peace—makes a way for the life your soul craves. He’s already with you. Each step above creates space for you to notice. So, as you enter into Christmastide, do it with an attitude of prayerful expectation. Talk to Jesus like he’s with you, whatever you’re doing, and you’ll find that he is.
Looking for more ways to experience Jesus this Christmas? Start by simplifying your celebrations (and your purchases!) and see how resisting Christmas consumerism can be good for your wallet and your heart.