How do the holidays fit you? Like a glove? A suit and tie, a festive party dress, comfy PJ’s? Or a straight-jacket?
My love affair with the holidays began early, and it’s one of my few enduring child-like joys. Memories materialize as the sights, smells, and sounds of the season approach:
Family gathered around the table for a feast of thanks, mouths watering as delectable aromas filled the air.
Decorating the tree while my Dad and brother got the Christmas train running.
Charlie Brown Christmas playing while wrapping paper and ribbon haphazardly found their way onto presents.
Belting out Christmas carols in the cold night air while hot chocolate and a cozy, warm fire awaited our return.
Skiing Christmas Eve.
Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast. William Shakespeare
Now it’s your turn. Close your eyes and imagine with child-like anticipation your favorite holiday memories. If they held little joy, imagine your perfect holiday scene.
Go ahead—don’t skip this part!
What most filled you with anticipation, wonder, nostalgia?
Now imagine your holidays this year. Did you detect a difference? Did your mind race, heart flutter, gut ache?
So what has happened to the holidays? We could ask science, and it would answer back:
Holiday stress statistics show up to 69% of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time,” 69% by perceiving a “lack of money,” and 51% by the “pressure to give or get gifts.” (APA)
Bringing it home, what were the glaring differences between your above versions?
Maybe wonder and joy were overrun by stress and overwhelm?
We grew up, and the joy of the holidays grew out of us.
Let’s rediscover the faded wonder of the holidays together, developing strategies for a more peaceful, hope-filled holiday experience.
Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having…become a child again at Christmas-time. Laura Ingalls Wilder
The best place to begin any adventure? The beginning. The reason for the season undoubtedly holds clues to rekindling the season’s joy and wonder.
Because of Jesus’ humble entrance into humanity, we have access at any moment to indescribable peace, hope and joy. We just have to tap into it.
But does this feel like joyful news? Oftentimes in the hustle of the holidays or stresses of life, we forget the purpose of the trees, lights, parties and presents.
The small scene sitting on your coffee table—you know the one—the Wiseman, shepherds, and 2 bewildered, young parents… This is where the joy began—and endures if we open our hearts with child-like faith.
As His child, we automatically and perpetually receive His favor. What a source of deep joy, if we give way to it!
But what we pay attention to informs our thoughts and feelings, leading us to action.
So, what captures your attention during the holidays?
- endless to-do lists
- never-ending shopping
- atmosphere and appearances
What if we firmly decide what we’ll make room for in our hearts this holiday season?
- simplicity over significance
- presence over perfection
- joy over jealousy
- connection over comparison
- heart over hustle
If this list doesn’t quite fit, ask Jesus what you most need and create your own.
Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. Hamilton W. Mabie
Ending with something I scribbled full of pregnant sentimentality, next week we’ll discover more stress-busting strategies for surviving the holiday season.
Today there was no room,
No room at the Inn.
No place for a sojourner,
No room for a friend.
My Inn was full you see,
Preoccupation had taken flight.
My thoughts were fast and furious,
No rational end in sight.
My eyes saw many things,
Planting doubt and distress.
My ears heard unglad tidings,
Causing my heart unrest.
My hands, frightfully busy,
Performing works of idleness.
My mind full of thoughts,
Passionate yet purposeless.
My day was much too full,
Yet my soul was so bare.
And while my heart was empty,
It held no vacancy there:
No room for a kind deed,
To assist a lonely friend.
No time for words of comfort,
Or encouragement to lend.
No room for a helping hand,
To uplift a weary heart.
No time for a whispered prayer,
Averting the flaming darts.
No room for a sweet Savior,
To fill a vacancy,
Bringing life and love,
He comes with new hope,
Relocating fear and doubt.
He brings with Him peace,
Leaving nothing to worry about.
And He ignites with passion,
The soul that simply exists.
He floods judgment with mercy.
The coldest heart can’t resist.
Yes, the Savior makes house calls.
He knocks and waits patiently.
Will He find room at the Inn?
Or will my heart beat just for me?
Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased. Luke 2:14