Holiday stress traps us all. When the holidays roll around, people jump into two camps. You’re either psyched out of your mind in a joyous state, and you’re Christmas’ #1 fan.
Or you’re miserably depressed and can’t wait for the season to pass – you’re a scrooge. Or Grinch.
Why is that? For a holiday that should be centered around joy and peace, it can also bring a lot of pain.
Holiday Stress – Kids
As a kid, Christmas was great. I always loved Christmas and wished every day could be that special.
You’d fantasize about the amazing gifts you’d receive and how your life would improve 1,000% because you got a new Ninja Turtle action figure.
And I specifically remember Christmas Eve being the most difficult day in the history of the world. Christmas Eve always dragged on and on. It was the longest day by far – I swear it was like over 40 hours long.
And to make the torture worse, we always had to attend church service that evening. Granted, we always regularly attended Sunday services, so church wasn’t a foreign experience, but that Christmas Eve service never seemed to end.
It seemed pointless too. Why did we need to be tortured with another church service, when we had already gone once that week? It seemed like all the parents had banned together to torture us kids. Because it literally felt like torture – being strangled in uncomfortable neckties, and pinned against those uncomfortable wooden pews. Ugh, kill me now.
Half the time I had to participate in the service. The kids would perform the Christmas Story of Jesus’ birth. On rotating years I’d have to be one of the wise men, or Joseph, or a shepherd. One of those male-gender roles. The shepherds were always the best, they had non-speaking parts.
But, if you were the unlucky chosen, you had to recite a monologue and read directly out of the Bible. Talk about a buzz-kill. For a 10 year old kid, this is equivalent to being drafted into a war and shipped out to Fallujah (Iraq).
Holiday Stress – Judged
All of a sudden the Christmas season turned into a stressful nightmare. You weren’t thinking about presents and hot cocoa any more – your mind was spinning with terror at the speech you were about to deliver in front of 200 judging adults.
And you better believe you’re being judged – even though they pretended there was no pressure:
“Do you best,” they’d say, “but don’t screw up like Johnny did last year. Remember when he stumbled and his mind blanked for 30 seconds. I felt so bad for him, and his family. They had to leave the church from the embarrassment. But have fun!”
Yeah, right. I’d rather die than have Christmas this year. We’ll skip it, and save the presents for the starving children in Africa. I’ve always wanted to start a charity and this year I’m feeling extra charitable. Let’s give it all away. I don’t care. As long as I don’t have to give that speech – who cares about Christmas anyway?
Holiday Stress – Ruined
That’s a terrific way to ruin Christmas for a child – to put them on stage, and give them a reading test from a complicated ancient text.
It’s a great way to ruin the Christmas season for anyone – to give them responsibilities, duty, extra work, and unnecessary stress.
And the story of being stressed out as a kid isn’t as ridiculous as it seems. This is what adults constantly do to themselves, year-in and year-out.
All of a sudden they hate the holidays. They hate the parties and the planning. The shopping. The expectations.
It’s like a test we have to pass every year, and depending on your outlook, can send your mind spinning in either direction.
You’re already stressed out with money, and now you’re forced to buy presents. Your work schedule is goofy from the time off. There’s the expectation to be happy, because it’s “that time of year” and you’re mad at yourself because you’re not.
There’s the extra cooking. The guests. The cleaning.
The expectations. The stress.
As adults, we do a terrific job of torturing ourselves.
Holiday Stress – Priorities
It’s ok. Everything will be ok.
It’s fine to enjoy the season. It’s fun to buy presents and drink eggnog. But don’t let these activities consume you – they shouldn’t.
They shouldn’t be your priorities on any other day. So don’t let them be your sole focus in December.
For a season that should be sacred – to remember the birth of the savior of the world – we’ve turned it into a consumerism nightmare.
Take a step back. Don’t get sucked into the trap. Don’t torture yourself.
Holiday Stress – Solution
If you’re stressed, I don’t have a clear answer, other than to say turn to Jesus. Granted, he’s the “reason” for this stressful season – but it’s not his fault. It’s ours.
Turn to him in your stress and anxiety. Turn to him in your struggle.
Whatever weird problem you think you’re struggling with, it’s no problem for Christ. He’s done a billion miracles already – many recorded in that boring ancient text – you don’t think he can resolve your anxiety about attending a Christmas party? Or baking? Or hosting? Or shopping?
Come on. Get over yourself.
Do you find Christmas stresses you out? Are you coming to Jesus with your problems? He’s the actual reason behind the season, after all.