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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Preserving the Joy of Christmas

Twinkling lights and tinseled trees suggest it’s that time of year again. Have you braced yourself? Christmas productions, Yuletide music, and busy shoppers are everywhere.

Those trappings promise happier times ahead. Loved ones will reunite, generosity will arise, and celebrations will begin. The crescendo toward Christmas glee—or glum—is underway.

While joy abounds at Christmastime, the season can have the same effect on our emotional sore spots as running 100-grit sandpaper over open wounds. I remember the irony well from years as a single adult in search of companionship. Furthermore, anyone who lost a loved one around the holidays will relive it annually when emotions are already on edge. While this time of year evokes fond childhood images for some people, others find their distant memories anything but worth remembering.

Despite God’s ultimate gift that gave rise to Christmas, the harried pace and heightened expectations of the season conspire with life’s difficulties to invite stress to the celebration. The glitz blitz is about to expose the Yuletide misfit inside any one of us. Inevitably, tension creeps in to steal the joy.

Does the thought of another Christmas have you strategizing to minimize its effects? Take heart. It will be over more quickly than it arrived. Meanwhile, here are some thoughts on how to reduce stress and preserve joy.

  • To avoid becoming swallowed by frenzy, be selective with the many activities Christmas offers. Over-scheduling them will turn the bonanza of festivities into holiday burnout.
  • Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without gift-giving and gatherings. With genuine motives, these beautiful and sacrificial acts of kindness commemorate the Magi as well as God’s gift of the Savior. However, stress will overcome any giver in search of ideal gifts or perfect celebrations. They don’t exist. People-pleasing can be exhausting. When giving focuses on the giver more than the symbolic act and its recipient, joy slips out the back door seeking a more tranquil abode.
  • Expecting others to bring us Christmas delight is more than they can deliver. Even the best of them will disappoint us. After all, everyone has shortcomings. Instead, rein in your expectations by reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas. Remember its origin.
  • We’ll have a greater appreciation for the people we encounter this season if we keep short accounts with them. Is there someone you need to reconcile with today to make your tomorrow more enjoyable? A pre-Christmas exchange of an apology for forgiveness will unwrap a reunion worth cherishing. Don’t let a frozen relationship prevent you—and those around you—from savoring the warmth of Christmas.
  • You’re bound to see people this Christmastime with whom you don’t usually choose to spend time. You may even consider them difficult. Regardless, every one of us has the right to be who we are. You can’t change or control these people. If you accept them as they are, they will be inclined to do the same for you.
  • This season that commemorates the birth of the Savior offers a unique opportunity to put things in perspective. We’re all guilty of focusing on our own troubles from time to time. Yet regardless of how serious they are, someone else has problems that top ours. When you look beyond your circumstances, you unlock a precious gift: the ability to touch others. And when you bless someone else, you bless yourself. That may be the best gift you receive this Christmas.

On Christmas Eve a few years ago, as a Hope Coach on TheHopeLine, I was chatting with a soldier who was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. Flashbacks to loved ones dying in combat were too much to bear, so she was drinking to mask the pain. She was yet another national hero who was alone with what felt like a miserable holiday awaiting her. The excruciating loneliness had led her to consider suicide. Although her spirits brightened when I pointed her back to the reason for the season, a long, hard road to healing and recovery remained.

My message to her? There is always hope. We need to look no further than to the embodiment of all hope, Jesus Christ. That’s why Christmas exists. And that’s why we celebrate it. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and to set the captives free. When you embrace that truth, joy will overcome your stress at Christmastime and throughout the year.

Copyright © 2021 Tim Bishop, used with permission.

 

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