This stress has several contributors. Some are rather light hearted; others light hearted but we make them out to be more; some are unnecessarily imposed; and some are to a large degree out of our control. Please indulge me as we quickly look at them in the reverse order.
Stress factors that we have little control over vary. For some it is dealing with grief because this is the first Christmas without a loved one. For some it is being suffocated by an avalanche of unpleasant memories that this season causes. Many deal with depression at being alone during the holiday.
Unnecessarily self imposed stress factors for the most part pivot around gift giving. There is no question that being able to give a friend or loved one a gift is a joyful experi-ence. There is a special feeling at spotting something that causes the thought “so and so would love this!” to blossom in our minds. However, we often allow a self imposed obli-gation to give gifts to shatter the joy of the season by making us believe we must buy gifts when we can’t afford them or give gifts that are beyond our budget.
Stress factors that are not as serious as we make them out to be mostly deal with our waistline. While I know that there are those who walk among us that have iron in their veins and steel hard resolve in keeping to their healthy eating habits, the majority of us fall into the category of lesser mortals. So we think of our desire to eat properly and the parade of goodies that our eyes land on during this time of year causes us to bemoan “I am going to lose all the ground I gained in my weight loss” or “I am going to put on pounds that will be hard to lose.” While these statements may be true, they can dilute the joy of holiday goodies.
Light hearted stress factors vary. For me is that the minute I think of Christmas, I can’t get the song Jingle bells from going into the loop mode in my head. Come on now, I bet that as you read this that song went off in your head. Other light hearted stress fac-tors may be things like practicing a happy face for that moment you know is coming when a favorite aunt gives you that rather original thingamabob that she knitted herself.
I would like to challenge all of us to exchange the stress factors we can control for a different seasonal goal. First, we need to look back about six centuries. Many in Israel in the time of Malachi were dealing with the question: “How can a just God permit evil, and why do the righteous suffer?” An answer provided for them spoke of a time when God would break into history to make things right. To introduce that age He would send a messenger to prepare the way. In Malachi 3:1 we read: “Be hold. I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” That messenger was. of course, John the Baptist who centuries later proclaimed “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” Matt. 3:2.
Fast forward to today. Although the Christmas season is designed to remember and celebrate that to us a Savior if born, for many Jesus is not even on the radar for this sea-son. His centrality is replaced by holiday grief or depression; The gifts we need to buy; the gifts we hope to receive; the meals and parties we need to prepare; and a plethora of other things that while perhaps pleasant, are peripheral to the reason we are celebrating. In 2 Cor. 5:20, we are called ambassadors for Christ. As His ambassadors we are people who speak for Him; people who represent Him; people who are called to say “The King-dom of heaven is at hand!”
This Christmas season, let us make a sincere focused effort to be His messengers and work not only at celebrating His birth but in preparing the way for those who do not know Him to come into a saving relationship with the reason we especially rejoice in De-cember.