I don’t believe there is a more emotionally exhausting time throughout the year than the Christmas holidays. First, there’s all the cheer. What’s not to love about this time of year? The music, the decorations, the family time, the seasonal treats that are (unfortunately) everywhere. It is like festive overload.
But then there is sadness and grief, and the emotional exhaustion that comes from this also being the most stressful time of the year for so many people. For instance, December started off as a rough one. I received news of the tragic death of a young mom from East Tennessee, and then sudden death of a children’s minister from West Tennessee. Two separate tragedies, yet one great emotion: overwhelming and deep sadness. After 34 years in the pastorate and more hours that I want to recount walking through valleys with families during the holiday seasons, I’m hypersensitive to the reality that there are many around us who have a difficult time finding the “Merry” in Christmas. I get that, really I do.
But let’s adjust our focal point. Let’s look beyond the glittering lights and the wrapped packages. Let’s even look beyond Christmas hymns and the nativity sets. Let’s be mature Christ-followers who understand Christmas from a biblical perspective. Truthfully, it never has been about us having a “happy holiday.” To some extent it isn’t even about the baby in the manger. It’s about having the hope-filled and spiritually abundant life secured for us by the man the baby became, and resting in the eternal life that man promised.
Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely believe we should celebrate the birth of Jesus to the “nth degree.” I believe we should embrace the tree, and the trimmings, and the spirit of the season. But the most poignant biblical phrases related to this holiday are, “For unto us a Son is given,” and “I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be for all the earth.”
The baby born in Bethlehem came to accomplish a mission. It was the work of redemption. He knew no sin, yet would become sin for of us. In the years following His birth, He lived a perfect life, became a perfect sacrifice necessary for our redemption. He completed a mission that enables us to have a peace that passes understanding and a joy that passes description, even in the midst of overwhelming grief.
Against that backdrop, let me encourage you in four ways during this Christmas season:
Enjoy the moment. Cherish the time you have with family and friends. Don’t take those around you for granted and do not take this day for granted.
Be Spiritually sensitive. Ask God to give you a special spirit of discernment. A holy radar, if you will. You will encounter people who the lights and the wrapping paper cause them to recoil instead of rejoice. Don’t feel you need to attempt to “fix” their struggle. There is great power in presence. Just be there for them. A willingness to shoulder the load can make a huge difference.
Practice godly generosity. It is incredible to think, “for God so loved”. God was so generous to us in giving to us His Son. Follow His lead. I encourage you to give a gift to the people God puts in your path. Share a pie with your neighbor, pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the Starbucks line, or better yet, share with someone about the hope you have because of Christmas. We are never more like Jesus than when we give.
Worship and adore Him. Private worship is imperative and corporate worship is a privilege. This is a great time of year to come back to the Word and pursue Jesus in prayer if you have gotten out of those holy habits. It’s a special time of the year to gather with other believers and worship Him, really focusing on the astounding grace we’ve received by His birth.
This world is full of disappointments and grief and often those surface during this time of year. However, I’d encourage you to lift your eyes and look beyond the discouragement and focus on the One who came to give us the hope that pulls us through this life and toward eternal life void of grief.
And it is in that hope that we can sing, “Joy to the World!”
From all of us at the Tennessee Baptist Convention, we pray for you and yours a very Merry and hope-filled Christmas.