I think most of us genuinely like Christmas. Not only do we love celebrating Jesus’ birth, but we enjoy the extra time spent with those we love, we like the lights, the gifts, the carols, the activities. There’s undoubtedly a lot to enjoy about Christmas time.
But this month also has a tendency to be stressful, a tad crazy, and for some people, even a bit depressing.
I think in part it’s due to the unsaid expectations that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year (oh wait, that is said, quite frequently actually). Yet, life doesn’t suddenly become “magical” — so we inevitably get disappointed when “wonderful” doesn’t define our existence.
For others, the sadness goes much deeper. All of the gatherings and intimate moments remind them of those they’ve lost, or it intensifies the loneliness they often feel. Additionally, it’s easy to sense the holiday enjoyment others have (or seem to have according to social media) which only stands in contrast to any feelings of heaviness.
And for most of us, December is just hard because there is so much to do (and that feels like a massive understatement). Our to-do lists quadruple in size, and Christmas events cut our time in half. Amidst this craziness, even the most godly among us are tempted to complain, become anxious, get stressed out, or have a bad attitude.
But I think we can conquer this month with genuine godliness. Not because it won’t be crazy, or because we’ll rid ourselves of any real sadness. But because we can maximize the benefits that follow on the heels of a month like December.
The Benefit of Feeling Empty
I don’t think God intended the celebration of Jesus’ birth to be a hectic season. But for most of us, it’s just how the holidays are— at least in the culture we were born into. We can try (and probably should try) to simplify and cut back a bit, but there’s a lot of worthwhile things to partake in, so avoiding busyness is almost impossible.
But there’s something quite good that happens when we have an empty tank (whether it’s due to the burdens or busyness of Christmas)…We remember the one who fills us up!
When we are physically or emotionally drained, we realize we need to purposefully rely on God. We go to him, we ask him for help. We remember that we are finite and we can’t do it all. Essentially, we remember that we need God. And for people who usually feel pretty self-sufficient, reminders of our insufficiency are helpful.
All that to say, may our moments of weakness remind us that we have a God who is strong. And may we praise him all the more for sending his Son that Christmas morn’ so we could have a relationship with a God who is everything that we are not.
The Benefit of Difficult Days
When James chapter 1 talks about trials growing us (James 1:2-4), it speaks of trials of “various kinds.” I think the small trials of stressful days can fit into that principle, and certainly the harder trials of loss and loneliness are relevant.
So whatever causes your holiday trials, see it as an opportunity to grow. In other words, if you can learn to handle the hardest parts of this month well, you will become a more mature and godly Christian all year round.
In a sense, we should praise God for the spiritual training ground provided by these more intense weeks of the year. Furthermore, we should maximize them — by growing through them.
The Benefit of Longing for Home
No matter the reason this month is harder for you, just remember it will be over soon. Of course, all your problems and busyness will not go away, but the way December exacerbates the problems will. January will come, and normalcy will ensue. But, the reality is, life in general will never be everything we want it to be (regardless of the month). And these unmet expectations remind us that not only will December be over soon, but eternity will be here soon!
Before we know it, we will actually be in the presence of our Savior, praising God for sending his Son at Christmas, and it will not be stressful or chaotic or sad. If Christmas isn’t all you want it to be, that’s okay, let it push you to long for eternity.
The Benefit of Perspective
When Christmas time feels hectic or hard, it also helps if we remember that all the things that make it difficult are not essential to Christmas. Ultimately Christmas is not about being with our loved ones, or doing all the things that make these days special or magical — Christmas is about the gospel! It’s about God becoming a baby so he could one day save us from our sins!
So it’s okay if your days are far from perfect, special days are not the point. Holiday fun is like the sprinkles on the frosting on the cake — totally unnecessary, though able to be appreciated by most.
So keep perspective. Let the stuff that busies or burdens you not take the focus. Keep the focus on what Jesus did for you.
If we can maintain our focus and not get bogged down by the unrealistic expectations and overwhelming tasks of December, perhaps we will even be able to enjoy it a bit more.
So celebrate Jesus this month, enjoy whatever blessings the season brings, and make sure to reap the benefits of even the hardest parts of the holidays.