Trading Holiday Stress for Holiday Peace

I find it fascinating to watch people from the time the Thanksgiving meal is cleaned up to the time we usher in a new year. As one who dislikes crowds, watching people is the only thing that makes being at the mall an acceptable reality for me this time of year.

The facial expressions in the crowd are varied. Some are pleasant. Others are depressed. Some marvel at the beauty of the lights and festive decor. Others (like me) cringe at the crowds, the lines, the chaos, and the inability to find a parking place.

Some find joy and comfort in the knowledge that the Prince of Peace has come into the world. Others scramble from retailer to retailer, even fighting with one another on sales floors to secure the obligatory gifts required to pull off a successful Christmas holiday.

We do ourselves a great favor by framing our approach to the Christmas season using the eyes Jesus called us to use — “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33a)

But there is so much to do!
(Seek first his kingdom…)
But there is so much to buy!
(Seek first his kingdom…)
But there are so many worries tied to charging up the credit card, and having to pay it back later.
(Seek first his kingdom…)
But I have to clean the house for company.
(Seek first his kingdom…)
But there is the expense of a Christmas dinner.
(Seek first his kingdom…)

Alean is often out of state, visiting family, during the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday seasons. I intensely dislike being apart from her, but I take advantage of those times to do projects around the house that tend to be messy — painting, construction, auto repairs, and the like. With Alean gone for extended periods, I can leave the mess day after day, continuing the project each day where I left off the day before. An additional benefit is that staying busy in this way helps me not miss my wife so much.

As we speak on the phone, and as the time for her return grows closer, I often assure Alean that I will have the house all clean before she gets home, knowing that the kids will be coming for a Christmas or New Year’s visit. On one occasion, Alean wisely reminded me, “It’s okay. They are coming to see us, not the house.”

There is a way in which we can work ourselves silly to make the Thanksgiving or Christmas season a perfect experience for everyone — except us. The perfect meal, the perfect gift, the perfect decoration, the perfect concert, the perfect home.

Instead, should we not focus on the perfect child and the perfect peace he brings us?

Martha struggled with this (Luke 10) when Jesus came to visit her home. She labored vigorously to create the perfect environment for a visit from the Lord. The more she labored, the more irritated she became that her sister, Mary, was not helping. Martha was sweating while Mary was sitting … sitting at the feet of the Prince of Peace.

When Martha finally reached the limits of her patience, and verbalized her irritation to Jesus, Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” (Luke 10:41)

Note that Jesus did not comment on Martha’s service, or her preparation. What he commented on was her mentality, her mind-set. “You are worried and bothered.” Jesus used the same word in describing Martha’s anxiety that he used to tell the disciples to not be anxious, but rather to seek first the kingdom.

If you find peace and comfort in purchasing and giving gifts, then purchase and give with gladness. If you find joy and fulfillment in preparing a wondrous meal for family and friends, then cook and serve, finding contentment in that service. But if you find yourself fending off anxiety tied to the activities of the Christmas season, I urge you to examine your heart and your motivation. Ask yourself why you are engaged in that which does not bring you peace, comfort and joy?

Seek first his kingdom. Be not worried and bothered about many things. As Jesus said, “Only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

Merry Christmas to you all!

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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