THIS SERIES: FINDING WINTER’S REST
“Only five weeks to Christmas”, the woman in the checkout queue says anxiously, “However will I get it all done?”
Those within earshot nod sympathetically...
All around us the urgent voices are starting, requiring we get with the programme: buy those presents and get them wrapped… What can I get Aunt Sally? Stock up for the seasonal feast … I mustn’t forget the stuffing this year... Diary in school plays and carol services, Christmas fairs and office parties... when can I fit in a visit to Uncle Jim?...Decorate the house in the latest style… like the one in the picture, I hope... and so the list goes on.
Then there’s the media onslaught: 101 ways to have a perfect Christmas. Those advertisement images of perfection are beguiling: happy families feasting and playing games next to a roaring fire; beautifully dressed rooms, creating a magical environment where anything can happen; sentimental films evoking joy-filled lives... Inspirational or aspirational, the effect is overwhelming.
To avoid joining the stress-filled masses, it's good to take time now to take stock of our expectations, and if necessary, take steps to modify them:
Simplify: don’t try to do everything suggested by the media--it’s impossible. In this case, less really is more. Christmas is about Emmanuel, God with us. Let’s make this our number one focus: to practice His presence, and minister His presence to others. This is really what makes Christmas special.
Accept imperfections: the quality of our family life and other relationships is not measured by a perfect Christmas. Things go wrong; stuff happens. Let’s determine beforehand how we’ll respond:
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
Pray: let's pray our way through the details of our Christmas preparations, from presents to parking places, from preparing for guests to cooking the turkey. Let's be co-workers with Him, asking for His wisdom and blessing on it all.
Give the gift of freedom: our vision of Christmas often demands that other people, especially our families, respond in a certain way. This can be the source of immense frustration and disappointment. Some expectations are reasonable: for example, help with food preparation or transportation, others are to do with preference, like attendance at a carol service, or joining in a particular activity. Let's sort out our expectations into 'necessary' and 'nice'. Then let’s communicate, in good time, the expectations on the ‘necessary’ list. We can also discuss our hopes in the ‘nice’ column, but we need to lay these down in terms of demands. If we concentrate on doing what we do as a personal act of worship, without demanding that others follow suit, it sets everyone free.
Hold traditions lightly: families have many wonderful Christmas customs, but it is important we don't let those conventions become bondage. The tell-tale signs are when the breaking of a tradition causes disproportional stress, and threatens to 'spoil' the festival. As seen above, we need to decide on our key essentials, and let that define everything we do. Jesus warned about putting traditions first [Mark 7:9], and Paul warned about judging ourselves and others regarding the keeping of festivals [Colossians 2:16]. It's good to keep in mind.
Let's take time today to think about how we can keep in rest this Christmas. And then let's enjoy the season...
NEXT WEEK: SACRAMENTAL LIVING
The joy-filled life...
GET IN TOUCH!
[Photo credits: Umesh Soni (Christmas tree); Sixteen Miles Out (candle);
Kelly Sikkema (writing paper) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
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