If you ask people what they love about the Christmas season, majority would answer any of the following: family time, receiving gifts, or gift-giving. On the surface, nothing is wrong with wanting these things. In fact, these are all great things to have and to do during Christmas until they become what Christmas is all about for us.

Family, money, and even charity are all great things, but they are terrible idols. We cannot build our lives around them. These things will be shaken, as stated in Hebrews 12:27, This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.

But with Jesus at the center, all other things find their place; not just for Christmas, but for all of life. Colossians 1:16 (MSG) says, For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels— everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. Family, money, and charity become meaningful in Jesus Christ.

How do we know if we’ve made Him the center of the things we value most during the Christmas season?

1) Family-Centered Christmas or Christ-Centered Family?

A friend of mine from college feels sad and lonely every Christmas season ever since her mother passed away in high school. She would compare herself to friends whose families were complete. She continued to self-pity when her dad migrated with his new wife to another country. For the longest time, she couldn’t find joy or any reason to celebrate Christmas even when she became a Christian, because she felt alone and abandoned.

A few years ago, a family from church had compassion for her and invited her to their home for Christmas. She went, and felt a sense of envy upon seeing the whole family enjoying their time together. She tried to fight the feeling of loneliness that she wasn’t celebrating with her own biological family. Then, to her surprise, the mom approached her and gave her gifts from each member of the family as if she were part of it. It was then that she cried because the Holy Spirit reminded her, “You are not alone—you never were. I am your Father and these are your brothers and sisters in Me. This is why you can celebrate.”

When Christmas is centered on family, family becomes everything. When the family is complete and happy, we feel like we belong and that we’re home. But when it’s incomplete, divided, or is undergoing trials, we feel lost and displaced.

On the other hand, when we know that the center of our home is Jesus, we will be able to enjoy, serve, honor, and love our family members even through difficult seasons. The Bible says in Psalm 68:6 (NLT), God places the lonely in families. So even if we are away from our family, or if we are orphaned, we see God’s faithfulness in giving us a spiritual family that helps us through our challenges.

2) Money-Centered Christmas or Christ-Centered possessions?

When Christmas is centered on money or on the gifts we expect to receive, our joy and our hope is tied to these things. When we have more money or get more gifts, we celebrate more. On the other hand, if we don’t have enough money to celebrate Christmas the way we want to or we feel like we didn’t get as many gifts as we hoped for, we feel incomplete and desperate.

However, when we recognize that we have an extremely generous God, who sent Jesus Christ to provide for our greatest need and more, we become more confident in His ability to provide for what we need and in His sovereignty over our current financial status.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

We become grateful for His abundant blessings in our lives, and we stay in faith in times of lack.

3) Charity-Centered Christmas or Christ-Centered Giving?

It feels great to give, especially to those who are in need. And indeed, it is a great thing to be concerned and sensitive to those who are poor and needy. But when charity becomes the center of Christmas, we either fret when we are confronted with the reality of the physical needs that have yet to be met, or we lose interest when it does not seem to feel as rewarding.

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11)

However, when charity is done from the perspective of God’s extreme generosity in Jesus Christ, we realize that we can be generous to those God calls us to give to because of our trust and confidence in who He is. We also become free of the false burden of addressing all the lack we see because we know our hope is in His ultimate victory.

The best thing about having Christ at the center is that in every season there is a constant flow of love, service, and generosity from a heart that abides in Him.