A little boy and a little girl were singing their favorite Christmas carol in church the Sunday before Christmas. The boy concluded “Silent Night” with the words, “sleep in heavenly beans.”
His sister elbowed him, and said, “No. Not beans, peas!”
I think this can sum up how many of us feel by the time we reach Christmas, the song might just as well end with beans or peas instead of peace. Because sometimes in the frantic rush to get everything done, the peace of the season seems to elude us.
I’ve tried to compile a list of potential things that happen at this time of year which may contribute to increased stress during the holiday season. See if any of these ring a bell, no holiday pun intended.
- Shopping for gifts
- Getting to the necessary holiday parties
- Putting up the decorations
- Cooking a meal
- Wrapping the gifts
- Making enough cookies to give away
- Buying a tree
- Fighting the traffic
- Having enough money to buy gifts
- (If married) Figuring out when to celebrate at both sets of parents without offending either
- All the stores are out of the gift you’re looking for
- Three frightening words – Some assembly required
- Having the right clothes for social occasions
- Gaining weight
- Christmas programs for the kids at school
- Untangling the strands of lights
- Sending out Christmas cards
- Hearing “All I Want for Christmas is You” for the 150th time
- Cleaning the house
- Forgetting someone for whom you should have purchased a gift
- Feeling the pressure to make a memory
- Knowing the year is coming to a close and you didn’t accomplish what you intended to
- Facing relatives you don’t get along with
- All of your work is due on a rapidly approaching deadline
- Knowing that maybe you’ll spend Christmas alone
- Being a part of a family that celebrates separately because of a divorce
- Christmas lights that won’t work
- Arranging travel schedules
- Missing loved ones who have passed away
- Paying off the credit cards
- Weeding through crowded stores
- Three often overlooked words – batteries not included
Did I miss any?
When you compile a list like this, it’s easy to see why Christmas is a major period of increased stress for many people.
Time is short. Even shorter during the holidays, sometimes shorter than we ever imagined.
And all of it just robs us of the simple joy that can be found in celebrating the birth of our Savior.
There’s a humorous little story in the Gospel of Luke that shows how busyness and stress gets in the way of what matters most. It wasn’t his birthday, but it was a party, and Jesus was the honored guest.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)
I think Martha was experiencing some stress. She was rushing around trying to get everything ready – after all Jesus was in her house!
“Doesn’t anyone care how busy I am?”
Then she comes in the room with some Christmas cookies, “Oh, Mary, dear sister, there you are! Don’t bother getting up. And, Jesus, I wish I could stay and chat like SOME people, but you’ll all be wanting freshly made egg nog soon, so I guess I’ll just go back to the kitchen where I’m working…. ALONE.”
Doesn’t that sound like us sometimes? We can get so distracted by all the seemingly necessary things that we miss the point.
All the Christmas preparations are good, but there is “only one thing” that is “needed.” And that thing that is needed this Christmas is spending time with Jesus in a personal, one-on-one relationship. We must never get so busy with the outward things that we neglect the quiet and peaceful worship of our God.
How Can we Find Peace During the Christmas Season?
How can we be calm in the midst of stress all around us at this time of year? How can we simply focus on what is needed? Here’s a good place to start:
Cross out everything that takes away from the real meaning of Christmas.
For instance, if it’s really stressing you out, do you absolutely have to make those special cookies that take a whole afternoon to make? Or, do you absolutely have to put up all the lights on the house that you did last year?
This is something that I am practicing this year.
We normally go crazy with Christmas… thousands of outside lights, a massive Christmas village that takes up the entire dining room, and tons of room decorations.
This year, we have the trees up… nothings else right now. And I am OK with it. Maybe we do more, but maybe we just keep it like it is.
There is something simple and sacred when you just turn off all the lights, sit on the sofa and enjoy the beauty of the tree accompanied by Harry Connick Jr, Amy Grant, Nat King Cole, and Josh Groban.
Holy moments. Not stress filled. Just given to us from our extravagant Father who is the giver of every good gift.
So this Christmas, simplify.
Invite the one who came. Who is coming again. Who is always coming to us. Oh yes, Jesus. Come again today.