I wrote this a few months ago and spoke to a group of Moms before the holidays had really even hit. Now, 2 holidays in and a few more to go, I had to come back to my own teaching.
I love this time of year, but it seems the holiday pressure is very real. For some of us, the holiday season sneaks up so fast, feels like a rough and tumble of a few months, then leaves us more tired than when it found us. Family, events, decorations, and all of it isn’t really official unless you post it on social media. I am not sure how everyone else feels this time of year, but it seems like the pendulum swings between absolute love and absolute stress.
Last year was really the first year I thought “I think we’ve finally figured this out!” and so I don’t speak from a place of mastery by any means. This year we are still refining things. I use these three questions for myself all year long, but especially when I feel the pressure and anxiety creeping in. We have had to miss a lot of events and decline a lot of parties, but after each one is over we are thankful we stuck with our choice.
Why? Where? and Who?
Why are we celebrating…?
Notice I use we because hopefully this is something you will take back to your spouse and work through together. I’m not going to go too far off into a marriage topic, but the holidays can be very stressful for marriages. Being united in your marriage as you enter the holidays makes a world of difference. I am so thankful for my husband during this time of year because he helps me stick to the things we define together.
So often in our culture we do things because everyone else does it. Maybe we think about it, maybe we don’t. Sometimes these things add a lot of value to our life, other times they just add chaos and we regret the time wasted or the money spent. Well the holidays are no different. It is healthy to ask, why are we doing any of it this way?
Whatever you choose to celebrate, if there is a valued why behind it — it will not be a waste. Even if it takes a little more work or intentionality, it will likely feel worth it and overall less stressful.
Where comes into place after we figure out our why…
Where do we focus our efforts/our time/energy/talent(including money) to aid our why?
Sometimes asking why can be a positive or negative response. Not negative in terms of reaction, but negative in terms of what needs to be negated from our lives. Positive as in here are all the reasons why I love to celebrate this, here are all the reasons I do not like to. This is where we are going to start shaping our why a little bit more.
If your why for Christmas is family time or building tradition, the centrality of that is people. However if your schedule is jam packed and you’re frazzled doing every little thing, do you end up getting time with people? Are you intentional about prioritizing these people? What does that look like in your family? How do you spend money around that holiday? Arrange your schedule? Exert more/less of your energy?
I want to encourage you to pick things you and your family love and focus your energy there. You don’t have to do it all.
You don’t have to celebrate a holiday. We have plenty of American holidays and holidays are a choice (which is an American privilege). You and your family can choose to celebrate or not how you want.
For Christmas, Christians might say Jesus, so let’s think of that month of December or even the 24 hours, how many of those hours are actually devoted to your why?
Is your month of December full of prayer and reflection, or busyness and contempt?
Can you really say you celebrate Christmas because of Jesus, but haven’t spent any time with Him?
James 1:19-21 comes to mind as I think of the hurried and rushed holiday lifestyle that is so easy to fall into.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”
When looking for clarity and guidance on our why or where – more time reading the Bible is a huge place to start. If your time in the Word and in prayer goes out of the door because you have “so much to do” this time of year… what does that say about your why?
Finally, ask Who?
Who is this really about? Who is at the focus of all of it?
For most of our holidays the Who should complement the Why?
When thinking about the who at the center of all these holidays…
Whose expectations are we trying to meet? Our mother in laws, our husbands, ourselves?
Are you really doing any of it for the right reasons?
This might be a hard one to really probe and I don’t want you to feel like it’s the same as Why.
If your why/where/who are not coming together in a way that you really value, that’s normal. These questions take a lot of time to think about and it has taken us years. We still refine every year and every season, not just around the holidays.
I want to mention and maybe encourage you that it is ok to purge so that you can prioritize. Kind of like “Quality over quantity.” Remember you can say no to invitations and you can say no to parties and you can say no to relatives if it helps define your why.
Because when all the food is gone, presents are torn up — what is left?
Let’s take it out a little further … 30 years from now, what is left? Are our children looking back and thinking “Man, I didn’t get that nerf gun, my mom sucks?” Or is our family thinking “Wow, her tablescape wasn’t pretty enough.” Likely not.
At the end of the day, dishes are done, we’re still in the rat race and there is the next thing. Then what?
These questions can’t lead you to guaranteed peace for all your future events. What I’m giving is clearly not a step-by-step solution to everything you might face this year. More than anything I wanted to challenge your approach and your thinking around this season.
What I’ve presented is a thinking process, sort of a different view we can filter these list of to-dos through.
In regards to the title though, if you’re going to keep Christ in the midst of the holiday Craze, first you have to be in the midst of Christ. You have to know Christ and be known by Him.
Entering the holidays, I spent a lot of time meditating on this passage in Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus who alone reveals the Father and divine plan of redemption shares an invitation…
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Like many of you, my day is full. I don’t sit down much and my to-dos seem endless. I am the heavy laden Jesus speaks of and I need rest.
However, rest does not come from perfectionism or Pinterest or checking off my to-do list. That “ahhhh, I did something” feeling is fleeting and quickly fades.
True REST is not found apart from a right relationship with Jesus. In our sinful nature, we will look and look, and work harder, but still coming up empty, exhausted and frustrated with our attempts.
When our Rest is in Jesus, ultimately all of this stuff and stress and holiday mess seems a lot less significant. When our identity is found in Jesus and not in the gift we give, our what our peers think of us, or how we look on social media, we are able to truly rest.
We can take these same 3 questions and ask them of ourselves.
Why are you here?
God is the creator of everything and He has created you in His image. Down to the tiniest detail of you getting here this morning, He knows it. He has a plan for your life and ultimately you were created to know God, to worship Him and to glorify Him forever.
Where are you going?
That is not a question we ask ourselves everyday because it’s uncomfortable and I get that. But knowing where we are going provides a lot of peace. We will all meet a day of Judgment. At that judgment we will be held accountable for every sin. For those sins of self righteousness, outburst of anger, idolizing our husbands, lusting, covetousness, pride, the list goes on. We can know where we are going based on this last question…
Who do you trust in?
Is it yourself and your performance? A lukewarm relationship with Jesus, where you give Him just enough of your life to feel good and selfishly keep control of everything else? Or have you fully surrendered to a Just, Holy God who satisfied His wrath in Jesus. The wrath that you deserve, but He so lovingly took on the cross. That Jesus does not say “Stay where you are and keep living the way you see fit.” He says “Come to me, learn from me.”
In order to experience Christ in the midst of holiday craze, to see past the everyday highs and lows, and to have an eternal mindset — you have to first be a believer in Jesus Christ. In order to take his yoke, to learn how to be gentle and lowly, we must fully wrestle with the mindset shift and the heart shift, in order to make a directional change, a worldview change.
Repentance is turning away from sin, turning towards Jesus. It’s not you acknowledging your sin or inadequacy as if he didn’t know, or thinking at some point you were worthy. We are not worthy. Repentance is about agreeing with God, seeing your sin as He sees it, turning away from it and trusting in Christ. It’s Christ who then carries us and gives us rest for our souls.
This is the absolute best time of year to be at rest. There is so much to be rejoicing in, to have peace about and to walk in comfort because of who Jesus is and what He came to do. Praying you have a peaceful and joyous holiday season!