“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14
Recently, a friend posted this on her social media page:
Can you relate? Christmas can be this wonderful time of year with shiny packages and children filled with wonder… Or it can be a time for the adult kind of wonder. I wonder what I should buy my kids’ teachers, my boss, my in-laws, or even my spouse who says he needs nothing. I wonder if it’s rude if I don’t buy the secretary’s secretary something… I wonder how I’m going to have enough money to feed my family over the holidays let alone buy meaningful Christmas gifts. I wonder if everyone will get along at the family gathering. I wonder if I have anything worth wearing to that Christmas event. I wonder what folks will say about us. I wonder if a sick relative will make it to our party. I wonder if we can fit everything we need to do into our schedule.
The stress can feel overwhelming. Instead of enjoying the beauty of the season, you may realize another year has gone by and there’s not much to show for it. Instead of a list of blessings, you’re compiling a list of things to do, a list of what you have to buy, a list of work deadlines, and sadly, maybe even a list of regrets.
You want things to be so perfect for the people you love that you turn into Martha rather than Mary. You plan the meals, you decorate the house, you buy the gifts and you run yourself ragged, still feeling the anxiety that it may not be absolutely the dream you want it to be.
If this is Christmas for you, then STOP! Stop right now and take a moment and think about what the angels said when they announced that Jesus had arrived (in Luke 2). “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!” Isaiah foretold of the Messiah, saying “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” One of the verses that has stuck with me this time of year is John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
So, practically speaking, how can we enjoy more peace this season? I think part of the answer lies in the order of the holidays or seasons. Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. (And long before Thanksgiving started in the US, the harvest festival to give thanks came before the festival of lights.) So many people feel so uptight about the holidays that they start preparing early because there’s just not enough time in one month to get it all done… But, thanksgiving is important. Thanksgiving is necessary! Not the overeating and the turkey, but the actual giving of thanks.
When you are feeling anxious, stop and give thanks for ten blessings in your life. Why not make it a dozen? Thankfulness can bring us back into the moment where we are rather than worrying about what’s ahead. Thankfulness reminds us that all good gifts are from above – that God is all powerful and present with us. Thankfulness calms our hearts and minds as we humbly thank God for what we have verses focusing on what we don’t. Even folks outside the church suggest something similar for anxiety attacks, as shown in the picture below.
When you’re feeling anxious, ground yourself by thinking of your many blessings. Thank God for those people in your life who you love. Thank Him for the air you’re breathing, for the food you’ve eaten, for the wonderful smells of the season, for the warmth of your coat, for your family, for your friends, for the good in your life. Then try and remember that Jesus’ birth was a miracle – peace with God. Joy to the world! Don’t let anxiety over deadlines and expectations or what other folks may think ruin your peace this year. You have and you are more than enough. The Christmas season is the joy of the process rather than the finished product. Enjoy each and every moment with a thankful heart!
If you’re still feeling anxious, then pray. Ask God to ease your mind and cast your cares on Him. Find a friend and talk or perhaps go to a counselor. You are welcome to call me, and we can give thanks together. 🙂
I’ll end with this:
“‘Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,’
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” ~Isaiah 54:10