By Scott Rodin and Lindsay Kittleson
Three years ago, my daughter Lindsay and I wrote a little booklet called, ‘Stewarding Christmas’. I want to offer it to you as you navigate your way through this hectic, but blessed season. You can get it free here.
This little booklet is my way of inviting you into a Christmas journey that might be different, even radically different, than what we have experienced for a long time. This journey involves both a change of heart and a change of hands. We will propose a new attitude, a new view of this entire Christmas season, that we pray will result in both freedom and joy. And we will share some ideas on how you can employ your hands in creating for yourself and, if appropriate, for your family, a richer, deeper and more meaningful Christmas season.
Navigating the Christmas ‘Mine’ Field
So, what’s all this talk about being a steward? Here’s a simple way to explain it. We live our lives from one of two viewpoints; as an owner or a steward. We do this in every area of life. We live life as an owner when we believe that the stuff around us really does belong to us. We live as if we own our material possessions, our time, our money, and even our relationships. As owners, we naturally want to have control of our life and all the things that affect it. Ownership and control are two sides of the same coin. They are both based on the belief that the more we possess and the more power we have, the happier and more secure we will be. We call this our “mine” field. This attitude has a powerful effect on the way we celebrate and enjoy Christmas (or not).
Stewards have a radically different view. They believe that everything belongs to God, everything! They also believe that God has given us everything we need in the form of a gift. Because life in all its dimensions is a gift from a loving God and not a possession we can claim to own, we can only live as faithful stewards in service of the one true Owner. What we don’t own we don’t seek to control but surrender it all back to its rightful Owner.
Both viewpoints have consequences. For the owner, the reward for a life of ownership and control is bondage. That includes stress, fear, anxiety, despair, discouragement and even depression. The more we seek to own things the more things own us. And that can include time, experiences, and even holidays.
For the steward, the reward for a life of surrender and trust is freedom and joy. The freedom comes from knowing that everything we have is in God’s hands, it all belongs to Him. And He is faithful, trustworthy, loving and sufficient. The joy comes from the opportunity to be in His service, faithfully stewarding all the wonderful blessings He gives us. And that can, and should include the holidays.
Our conclusion is this, we will either own or steward Christmas this year. Which will you choose? Here’s a quick comparison of attitudes and actions to help you decide.
Owners are in bondage to time. They never have enough of it, and they feel pressured to squeeze as much into it as possible.
Stewards see time as a gift and seek God’s leading on how best to use it. Time serves them, not the other way around.
Owners are in bondage to the expectations of others. They fear letting people down, so they spend their time and energy pleasing others.
Stewards seek first to please God and follow His leading. They love and serve their family and friends but they do so in the freedom of having their first allegiance to God.
Owners are in bondage to stuff. They try to find happiness in accumulating things and they tie their self-image to what they own or accomplish.
Stewards have been set free to find their full satisfaction and joy in Christ, so they reject the temptation of amassing stuff in search of happiness.
Owners are in bondage to desire for control. They believe that if they can exercise power over the inputs of their life, they can control the outcomes for their own benefit.
Stewards surrender all control back to God (He has it anyway) and enjoy the freedom of trusting Him and following Him, knowing He wants the very best for them.
Owners are in bondage to the service of self. They may look like they are giving and caring, but in their heart they are ‘curved in’, constantly seeking what is best for themselves. As owners, they can’t really approach life any other way.
Stewards are curved out outward. Because they trust God to be their Provider, they can give themselves away in serving others with joy. They don’t need to be looking out for themselves, God is their full provision.
What does this look like when we think about celebrating Christmas? Here’s our summary.
Owners will never have enough time to do everything they feel is demanded of them by others and by their own sense of what is needed for Christmas to be ‘successful’. Therefore, they will try to control all they can to be sure things turn out the way they want. They will feel frustrated when things don’t go as planned. They will expect others to behave well and they will try to control relationships to be sure everyone is ‘happy’ and ‘gets along’. They will have the very best of intentions but feel empty even when their efforts meet expectations. They will be left somewhat unsatisfied with the presents they bought, and they will dread the January bills. In the end, they will sense a loss of the true meaning of Christmas and wonder how Jesus went missing in all the work of celebrating His birth.
Stewards will embrace Christmas by starting at the manger. They will surrender their time to God and seek His leading for how best to use it. They will define ‘Christmas success’ as a season of faithfulness. They will be driven by doing those things that glorify God even if it does not meet the expectations of others. They will value service over busyness and giving over buying. They will trust God to lead and provide at every level. That means seeking honesty in relationships rather than painting a veneer of ‘getting along’ over unstated issues. They are free to let God do the work and follow His lead regardless of where it takes them. In all these ways they will keep Christ at the center and allow the messiness of human frailty to be part of a Christmas celebration that leads everyone to the manger.
Which approach to Christmas will you choose?
Next week, avoiding the three Christmas Traps!