When did Christmas become so stressful?
One of my most favorite Christmas cards I ever received was one with this written on the cover: It’s almost time to switch from my everyday anxiety to my fancy Christmas anxiety. How does a card know me so well?!
There are the usual Christmas things like sending out Christmas cards (is it okay to send them on the 26th? I had them ready but ran out of stamps and then I forgot about the pile of unsent cards lying under a pile of other junk on my desk); buying and wrapping presents for everyone (making sure no one is left out, and then inevitably you’ve forgotten someone and it’s horrible); holiday parties (can we just do one big combined one next year?); travel (do I want to see my family or be alone on a beach somewhere?); activities and fun things for kids (yes son, you can open my advent calendar as well as yours); musicals, shows, and cheesy movies to watch (didn’t I see this already?)... the list goes on.
And did I mention work? The birth of Jesus is one of the most important seasons in the Church, and so, naturally, it becomes one of the most (if not the most) busiest seasons in vocational ministry. Here at Cornerstone we have a tradition of creating a special Christmas production that is no small feat. And let me tell you - this past week I have been feeling the stress of it. Late nights; last minute changes; problems to solve; things to create; people relying on me.
Sometimes it can feel endless.
And some years, it has been endless. Some years I’ve been so busy in the Christmas season that I barely had time to prepare my heart for the joy of Jesus Himself. Sometimes I’ve been so overwhelmed and tired I spent the whole of Christmas Day in a daze, half asleep on the couch and before I knew it the day was gone.
I don’t want this year to be like that. I don’t want to miss out on the peace to be found at Christmas. I don’t want to be sucked into the Stress Abyss again.
The remedy here is simple. You’ve heard it before. You may have even rolled your eyes at it. But we have to remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.
What I mean specifically by this is not that the focus of Christmas should be on Jesus’ birth and less on corporate capitalistic things like trees, decorations and presents - but rather that we need to remember that one of the primary reasons He came was to bring us peace. His name shall be Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
In John Piper’s book The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, he makes a very important distinction about peace. He says that the peace of God - the peace that is in Christ - can never be separated from God Himself and Christ Himself. If we want peace to rule in our lives, God must rule in our lives. Christ must rule in our lives. God’s purpose is not to give us peace separate from Himself. His purpose is to give us peace by being the most glorious person in our lives.
And so is it any wonder that I get lost every Christmas like a wise man without a camel in the desert? Because I put my focus on everything else. Sure, I work in full-time ministry, and creating art for His cause and producing a service for Christmas Eve are offerings of service unto the Lord - but so many times I get wrapped up in the thing itself rather than the One whom it is for. I sometimes make the celebration, the art, the offering, the gifts, the To Do list more glorious in my life than I do Him. I may have the noblest intentions - and the things I do may even be tangible reflections of His love and a specific call from Him to do - but they can never outshine Christ Himself.
He was born without much fuss. No pomp and circumstance. All He desires - in this era of non-stop glamor, glitter and good intentions - is our worship. When we set our hearts on Him - even for a moment - it is then that we begin to feel true peace.
Your fancy Christmas anxiety may look very different from mine, but the remedy is the same.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Please continue wrapping those presents in that gorgeous paper you found. Please stay up late writing and labeling Christmas cards while you sip hot cocoa with a cheesy Christmas movie playing in the background. Please go to that Christmas party you were invited to and wear a glitter reindeer sweater. Please help those you see ringing a red bell or needing food and something warm to wear.
But when you start to feel the stress of it all closing in on you, stop, take a breath, and sit for a moment in the presence of Jesus and invite the Prince of Peace to be just that - the Prince of Peace over your life and in this moment right now.
Lord, in this busy season, help me to be still. I pray for Your peace to reign in my life. I pray for You to reign in my life, for Your peace is not separate from Yourself. I invite You to draw near to me this Advent season, that I might not get lost but rather remain in your perfect, steadfast peace. Amen.
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