Stressed Out By Christmas? Change Your Focus!
Every year at Christmas, I’m amazed at how stressed out people get. I mean, I understand a little, but I can’t wrap my mind around a month of frenzied activity over celebrating the birth of Jesus. That’s the ultimate proof that we are nowhere close to having a “relationship” with Jesus over being a religion just like everyone else.
Consider this story about unhealthy relationships with people and consider how it applies to the way you relate to Jesus at Christmas:
The Christmas Party
Imagine that this year for Christmas you decided that all you want is to have a huge dinner party for all the people that you really care about. You go all out: You prepare all of your favorite desserts; you order lobster and filet mignon; you decorate every inch of your house; and you clean and work every day to make this party perfect for your guests. In addition to all of this, you pay for travel expenses for some of your distant relatives and friends so that everyone can make it to your party. You truly spare no expense.
Finally, the day of your big party arrives. You have been excitedly double-checking everything and now there is nothing to do but wait for your guests to arrive. You can hardly contain yourself as you think about how much you want to re-connect with all of your guests. Finally, the hour approaches and guests begin to trickle in.
Are You the Fretter?
The first guest is your great-aunt Mildred from California. She walks in the door, hands you her coat and immediately begins complaining about the plane trip. You smile to yourself and decide not to mention how much the trip cost you and listen politely to her complaints. That’s just Aunt Mildred you say to yourself and you give her a hug. She hugs you briefly then goes into the kitchen and begins rearranging all of the trays of appetizers that you just set out. You try to dissuade her from doing this so that you can just chat but she won’t hear of it. “Honey, I have to stay busy. How would you feel if I let you serve these appetizers arranged this way?” You think to yourself. “I would feel like you trust me and you want to hear what is going on in my life.” But you know this is just Aunt Mildred’s way and you just let her keep doing work that you already took care of. Deep down you know that she is doing it because she cares about you, but you wish your relationship was more than her fretting over things and that you could have a real conversation. As you think about this, the doorbell rings.
Are You Relying on the Relationship You Used to Have?
A group of your friends from high school all arrive together. You are so excited. You have kept in touch with them through the years, but the conversations have been hit and miss. You hear about the big events in their lives, but you don’t really feel like you know them anymore. You can’t wait to catch up with them and find out what they are like now that they have matured into adults. Your friends come in the door already deep in conversation with each other. They all hug you and sincerely thank you for having the party. As you take their coats, one of your friends, Becky, begins to look around the room and compliment you for how tastefully you have decorated your house. She soon leads the group away from you and continues to talk about what great taste you have. You blush and are grateful for all of the compliments but after a few minutes, you begin to wonder if your friends are ever going to actually talk to you or just continue to talk about you.
Is Your Relationship Only About Asking for Stuff?
Your thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of your cousin Joe. He barges in and gives you a huge bear hug. He yells, “what’s up cuz?” and then proceeds to the kitchen and fixes a huge plate. As he is stuffing down appetizers, he starts locating guests so he can tell everyone stories about all of the crazy things that you did as kids. You love hearing the stories. You and Joe used to be really close. As you listen to his stories, you start to feel a little sad, though. Joe says you are his “favorite cousin” and he tells everyone how great you are but you have drifted apart since he became a lawyer and had a daughter. He calls on you to help with babysitting sometimes, but he never has time to sit and chat like you used to. You had hoped tonight would be different but he seems to be focusing on impressing the other guests with how great your relationship is instead of taking a few minutes to actually talk to you.
As your guests continue to come and go throughout the night, you are surprised how many of them feel like they have really related to you just by showing up and how few actually wanted to spend time with you. You wanted to share your plans and dreams with those closest to you and no one seemed to have time for you even at your own party…
WHAT ARE WE REALLY FOCUSING ON AT CHRISTMAS?
I think that at Christmas, we often treat Jesus like the people in this story treated the host. Like the guests at this party, we feel like God should be pleased that we “show up” at some religious gathering. Like Aunt Mildred, some of us ignore blessings and focus on negatives. Also,like Aunt Mildred, we sometimes frantically try to fix things that God has already taken care of because somehow busyness makes sense to us. Like the high school friends, sometimes we have lots of great things to say about Jesus and we enjoy all the great things he has done for us and it feels like a relationship but it isn’t really. Like cousin Joe, we share stories about what Jesus has done in our lives, but we don’t notice our relationship isn’t what it used to be because the only thing we ever do is pray and ask for more, but we don’t take time to listen and be grateful for what God has already done for us.
Christmas is About God Longing to Have a Relationship With YOU.
Jesus went to great lengths to have a real individual relationship with us. The Christmas story shows the beginning of the sacrifice that Jesus made in order to have that relationship with you. He left heaven to come down here and live with all of your messiness! (Seriously think about that for a minute!) He humbled himself and became a human being and a servant. The God that created EVERYTHING and rules over all, went out of his way to have a deep, meaningful relationship with YOU!
RELATIONSHIP INSTEAD OF RELIGION
The world is full of religions and religious people trying to please God. What makes Christianity unique is that through Jesus, God is seeking us! If we start anywhere other than our relationship with him, we are in danger of becoming legalistic zealots and missing the joy that Jesus offers. There are plenty of great things that we as Christians should be doing, but they should come from being changed by the time we spend in God’s presence. When we are living this way, it is surprising how different our perspective is on everything and everyone. There is no substitute for daily time with Jesus and no way to rush the process of true change that results from knowing him.
And that relationship will free you to live fully free in the stress and craziness of the Christmas season and all the other seasons too!
Freedom From Stress!
When we truly understand the relationship that God desires for us, it is incredibly freeing. Even from Christmas stress! I’m reminded of the Bible verse in Mark 2 where Jesus said, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” God created a day for people to rest and reconnect with him but religion made it a day of strict rule keeping (and boring services with lame music…) which was never ever what God had in mind.
Jesus taught that holy days were not the end all. They are simply meant to be a tool to help us connect with God. And he certainly didn’t say, “Hey guys make sure you stress yourself out decorating everything and ignore half the stuff I taught so people know that you really love me on my birthday.”
Really, he just wants to hang out with you and walk through this messy life with you. If your attempts to observe his so-called birthday or anything else are stressing you out, you are missing the point my friend!
If you need some help, knowing how to hang out… I totally recommend my study of the book of Luke! (See ad above, or link below Yup! Shameless plug!) Or contact me for some free ideas.
Blessings and peace for this season!