Sometimes, in the frantic rush to get everything done, the peace of the season seems to elude us. Below is a list of potential things that happen at this time of year which may contribute to increased stress during the December period. See if any of these ring a bell!
- Shopping for gifts
- Getting to the necessary end-year parties
- Putting up decorations, wrapping gifts
- Cooking a meal
- Fighting the traffic, fighting the queue’s
- Having enough money to buy gifts
- (If married) Figuring out when to celebrate with both sets of parents
- Having the right clothes for social occasions
- Christmas programs and exams for the kids at school
- Untangling the strands of lights
- Feeling the pressure to make a memory
- Cleaning the house
- Facing relatives you don’t get along with
- Making the December deadlines
- Maybe spending Christmas alone
- Being part of a family that celebrates separately, because of divorce
- Arranging travel schedules
- Missing loved ones who have passed away
When you complete a list like this, it’s easy to see why Christmas time is a period of increased stress for many people. Does Jesus have anything to say to us in the midst of this season of hurry and rush? I believe He does.
So what does Jesus think about all of this?
There’s a little story in the Gospel of Luke that shows how busyness and stress gets in the way of what matters most. It wasn’t Christ’s birthday as Christmas, but it was a party and Jesus was the honoured guest.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Understanding what Jesus said to Martha about Mary, it’s easy to see that we will enjoy the season much more when we simply focus on what is “needed”. Martha was experiencing some stress and was rushing around trying to get everything ready – after all Jesus was in her house!
Now, no-one can live without experiencing some degree of stress.
Stress can be caused by anything that creates a state of alarm in our systems, and it’s not necessarily even bad, it can be threatening or even sheer joy. The body’s stress response is stretched, e.g. like a rubber band, whenever it is subjected to any emergency or demand. It ought to return to a normal, relaxed state when the demand is removed. If stretched for a long time and held, it loses its elastic properties and will eventually snap.
This time of year can be a difficult time if we are trying to cope with too much stress and like Martha, “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (Luke 10:40).
Does that sound like us perhaps? Distracted by all the seemingly necessary things, that we miss the point? Some things that we make priorities aren’t really priorities and we need to choose what to leave out. By focusing on things of lesser importance, we miss what’s most important. Mary realised spending time with Jesus was more important than all the external preparations.
Martha’s choice had not been bad. The things she was working on were all good – it simply wasn’t the wisest choice at the moment.
Why? Jesus was there.
Christmas preparations can be good, but there is ‘one thing’ that is ‘needed’ and we often neglect that. And that thing that is ‘needed’ this Christmas is spending time with Jesus in a personal, intimate, love relationship. We should never get so busy with the outward things that we neglect the quiet and peaceful worship of our Lord.
Perhaps you could . . .
- Cross out everything on your list that takes away from the real meaning of Christmas.
- Lay out a plan that lightens the calendar, shares the load, respects your budget and puts your most significant relationships first and prepares your heart to welcome Jesus in.
On the night Jesus was born, angels from Heaven announced, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom this favour rests.” (Luke 2:14)
Don’t let the celebration of the most peace filled night in earth’s history turn into the most stressful time of year.
Blessed, Happy, Peace-filled Christmas to all you ladies!
Acknowledgements: Matthew Rogers