We have just begun Advent which focuses on the anticipation of Christ’s birth during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Christians are often looking for big things at Christmas, and I don’t mean extravagant gifts. During Advent Christians focus on having hope, love, joy, and peace in their lives, but is it realistic to expect these things to all come to us over the next few weeks when we haven’t been trying to deepen our walk with Christ during the rest of the year? It’s as if we expect them to magically happen during the Christmas season. This past Sunday our sermon focused on having peace in our lives. Pastor Mark presented some good building blocks for this with the cornerstone being that we will only have peace in our lives when we are at peace with God and that comes from pleasing God. How do we please God? This is accomplished by having faith, living through the Holy Spirit, obeying God, sharing with others, and obeying your parents. Each of these things require continuous work on our part throughout the year, not just during the Christmas season. We shouldn’t wait till the Christmas season to work on having peace in our lives.
Christian families experience tremendous pressure during the Christmas season. These pressures take our focus off God and rob us of the peace we should be experiencing. We have not only the pressures of gift giving, holiday parties, and family get togethers but we are also expected to be “more religious” than any other time of the year by serving meals to the needy, caring for the homeless, visiting the elderly, and attending a multitude of church oriented Christmas activities all while remembering “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. These are all good things but are meaningless if we are simply going through the motions because we think that’s what Christians do this time of year. We will only find peace in these activities when we do them out of the depth of our relationship with Christ. My prayer for all of us is that we begin to realize that the wonderful peace that we talk so much about during the Christmas season is available all year round if we will take the focus off ourselves and put it on pleasing God.
I would like to close out this week’s blog with my annual Christmas survival tips. I think these are especially useful this year as our church focuses on having peace in our lives. Being busy is one of the enemies of peace, You aren’t going to find peace if you are so busy that you don’t spend time working on your relationship with God. Last Sunday Mark also taught us that even if we are at peace with God it doesn’t mean we are at peace with others, circumstances, or even ourselves. These three areas of conflict are abundant during the holiday season. Hopefully the following tips will help you to find a bit more peace during the hectic Christmas holiday by focusing less on the season and more on the Savior.
Just say No. Over-commitment is a big holiday stress inducer. Cut back on your activities. Don’t try to make it to every school, work, church, and family Christmas activity while trying to fit in pictures with Santa, parades, tree lightings, caroling, and the Nutcracker ballet.
Guard your time. School, work and life don’t stop just because it is Christmas time. Make sure you allow enough time for your routine activities.
Stick to a budget. Making a budget will keep you from overspending on those great Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. If you have credit card debt don’t add to it by charging your Christmas gifts. Start now putting money into a Christmas fund for next year and spend only what is in the fund.
Plan ahead. Madly running from house to house exchanging gift cards with no time to spare is a recipe for holiday disaster. Allow enough time for unexpected events like your kids throwing up on their new Santa sweater just before time to take the big holiday photo.
Be realistic. Life isn’t like a Hallmark movie where by the end of the movie everyone has reconciled and found true love and happiness. Engage difficult people only on neutral topics. Don’t give them reasons to argue.
Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t try and force yourself to feel happy when you aren’t. It will backfire and cause even more stress. It’s OK to dislike aspects of the holiday. Set limits on participating in things you don’t enjoy.
Watch your Alcohol intake. It is easy to rationalize the amount you drink during the holidays. It can be anything from taking that drink to calm your nerves to deal with the stress or the free flowing alcohol at Christmas parties.