I’m not sure where I got this, but going back through my files I found this little quiz on how to assess holiday stress:
- If I get fired tomorrow, that will just mean more time to complete my holiday shopping.
- I have downloaded my brain to a zip drive to survive the holiday season.
- Every child’s Christmas stocking should include at least a pound of Valium.
- I have recurring dreams about being on a tropical island with white sandy beaches, no work, traffic, or lines.
- I think this test is stupid and wish I hadn’t wasted my time reading it.
Let’s face it. The extra demands of this time of year—demands over and above the many demands already there in our often over committed lives-- tend to produce extra pressure upon us and extra tension within us. The result is that in a season that is meant to be marked by good cheer, many people get… grumpy.
How do we avoid that?
One way to do that is to focus on the meaning of the holidays rather than the commercial message of our culture. The two could not be more different. Our culture tells us that the holiday celebrations are by and large external; they are about things. They are about presents, and lots of them; food, and lots of it; decorations, and lots of them; drink, and lots of it. And as we relentlessly pursue these things, we find ourselves feeling tired, worn out, and run down.
There is a better way.
It is to remember-- as cliché as it sounds-- the true meaning of whatever holiday it is we are celebrating. For Christians, it is to remember the very heart of Christmas: God so loved the world that He gave us His son.
For those of us who are Christians, Christmas is about letting Christ be born into the world today through your heart and through mine even as he was born into the world 2000 years ago. It means, by God's grace and with His help, loving one another even as He loved us. It means entering into one another's worlds even as He entered into ours. It means making time for one another even as He made time for us.
At its very core Christmas is not so much about presents as it is about presence. It's about knowing that God is present with us in Jesus and our being present to one another. That for us is the real joy of Christmas. But all too often the hype and fervor of the season work against giving the gift of good cheer in being authentically present to one another.
It may well be worth making a conscious decision right now that we won't let that happen to us; that this year, our Christmas will first and foremost be an occasion to love often and well.