This is what happens: you’re strolling along in September, enjoying football season and pretending that Texas actually has a season called “fall”, and you begin to anticipate the joy of the holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas… so much fun to be had!
Then you step into Halloween and somehow, also into a time warp that hurls you head first into the dizzying ball of commercial Christmas craziness. BAM! Everything is red or green. All the stores have “Christmas Sales!!!” that “Won’t Last Long!” and piles of products that certainly do last long, and are suspiciously more expensive than usual. Christmas music starts blaring everywhere. There are about a thousand Christmas parties, pageants, and other events. You start looking at your shopping list and wonder how you’re going to magically conjure the extra dough.
(Speaking of dough, this sudden onset of Christmas frenzy makes you crave ALL THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE DOUGH. Mmm, stress relief never tasted so good.)
But why are we so stressed?
This all crossed my mind in a flash over the weekend when I almost got crunched by two separate vehicles while navigating a shopping center. One culprit was an elderly lady who cut across three lanes of traffic to cut me off as I tried to merge onto the highway. I had to break so hard everything in my car flew in the air, and I hurt myself (mildly). Then she glared at me! How dare I take up precious space on the roads when SHE had important holiday errands to run! The nerve of me, really.
Isn’t this supposed to be a season of patience and love, giving and awe? Aren’t we supposed to be waiting in quiet expectation for the birth of Christ? I’m pretty sure the manger scene was full of calm and peace and love. I can’t imagine it included Wise Men cursing about bad camel drivers, angels blasting Christmas music from an iPod, or shepherds stress-eating enough cookies to put them in a diabetic coma.
And yet, we put ourselves in this state of hyper-arousal. We’re overstimulated, over-caffeinated, over-stressed, and over-scheduled. I don’t know about you, but it’s crazy hard, nay, impossible, to wait in quiet expectation when your blood is buzzing with stress and adrenaline. I often look like this during this time of year, which is awful instead of awe-filled:
SO MUCH STRESS!
And that’s just it – the commercialism of the holiday puts us in this constant frenzy of looking forward to what’s left to do or how things will go. We’re looking ahead blindly, and not looking at the reason for everything.
God sent his only Son in the form of a vulnerable human baby. He was born in the most humble way – no hospital or warm nursery – in a barn. He didn’t sleep in the most sophisticated crib that cost Joseph all of his savings. He slept in straw. He was surrounded by a handful of awestruck people who gazed at the sight and took it in.
Calm. Pure. Bright. Love.
That’s all we need to do! It’s so simple! We must simply take in what has already been given to us: the Love Incarnate that God gave us that day, and continues to give us everyday.
So, when the holidays begin stressing you out, try this out:
- Stop what you’re doing.
- Close your eyes.
- Take 3 deep breaths.
- Visualize the manger scene: the sounds, the smells, the sites, the peace and awe.
- Take 3 more breaths while holding the image in your mind.
- Let out a big breath, and with it, all the crazy that was spinning in your brain just minutes before.
- Remember what’s important, and hold onto the fact that Jesus has already come. That we don’t have to do anything but wait and receive the greatest gift that has already been given.
- Carry on your tasks, knowing that nothing is as important as that Gift.
May you and your families have a beautiful, Christ-centered holiday season full of peace and joy. Merry Christmas!