I’m sitting on my couch, gearing up for a weekend of craziness we call Christmas. I do love this season. I love the togetherness – being with friends and family during this time has a sense of magic to it. It’s special. Beautiful. Spiritual.
But, alongside the moments of joy and excitement, I feel equal amounts of anxiety, stress and sadness. It isn’t something we talk much about, but I believe this is a universal occurrence. Our personal circumstances may be different, but the base line of emotion is the same.
I believe there is a reason for this – a purpose in fact. But, I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I’ll tell you a bit about my morning.
This morning when I woke up, the wave of anxiety, stress and sadness hit like a freight train.
I decided to give these feelings a long, hard look. Because maybe – just maybe – if I was brave enough to be honest, a remedy may appear. So, I wrote what I don’t like about Christmas this year:
1. Having to clean (like deep clean) for company to come over
2. Being reminded of those who are not with me this Christmas (deaths, divorce – it’s a long list)
3. Having to be around people who I don’t know that well, while experiencing those emotions
4. The heavy loaded schedule of events (school functions, kid’s performances, Christmas parties at work, Christmas parties with friends, Christmas parties with family, etc)
5. Making sure the gifts will be liked
6. The SERIOUS STRESS OF WHAT THE **** AM I GOING TO WEAR??? WHAT ARE MY KIDS GOING TO WEAR? CAN I CHASE KIDS IN THOSE SHOES? CAN I CHANGE A DIAPER IN THAT OUTFIT? WILL THE COLOR OF MY GIRL’S DRESSES SHOW FOOD AND DIRT AND GOD KNOWS WHATEVER ELSE THEY WILL GET ON THEM IN AN 8 HOUR PERIOID??? SWEET BABY JESUS HELP ME.
7. The pressure to give enough quality time and energy to my kids, my family, my loved ones and friends.
8. Making sure I’m being generous enough, kind enough, thoughtful enough, charitable enough, spiritual enough to call myself a Christian at Christmas.
Christmas has the power to remind you of everything that you have in your life that you are so thankful for – yet equally reminds you of everything you don’t have and are crushed by grief and loss over.
It’s a bitter cocktail.
And, if you attend church at all during this month, all you hear is the “Christmas story” – with the nativity scene and the angels and the shepherds and you then feel guilty for making Christmas all about you.
It’s like you just can’t win.
But, it occurred to me that maybe this isn’t it. Maybe all of that isn’t the whole picture of Christmas.
Christmas is not a story of death – a story of a baby born to die for our failures – it is in fact, the opposite of death. It is a story of re-birth.
In winter, the trees are barren. The ground is cold. The air is dry. It’s as though everything outside is dead, cold and lifeless. So many of us feel this very same way this time of year. It’s like our insides are telling the same story as nature.
When Mary was told she was going to have a baby, she was living in a time where oppression was great. The taxation rate alone was horrific – 90%. She was part of a group of people who were marginalized, humiliated, abused and crushed by the larger, more powerful majority. It was a dark time in history.
If anyone felt stress, fear, anxiety, grief and loss during this time it was Mary and her people. And, yet, it is in this people – this moment of darkness – that a baby came.
Every time something dies, a new thing is born. In every moment of deep darkness, that is where the first pool of light begins.
Jesus did not come to bring guilt and shame through his birth – he came to bring hope, new life and joy in the middle of utter pain, sadness and grief.
Nature echoes this story.
In the winter trees appear dead. The ground appears lifeless. The crops appear barren. But, then springtime comes. The trees turn green. The ground softens and new seeds give birth. The crops produce food.
Christmas is the story of winter turning into spring. Of the crushed standing strong. Of the tired and hopeless rising brave. Of the quieted finding their voice. Of the minority having room at a much bigger table. Of the coldness turning warm.
We, my dear friends, are Mary. We all carry heavy loads of stress, anxiety, fear and worry. We all carry stories of grief and loss and sadness. You are not wrong for feeling any of that this time of year. In fact you are fighting nature itself by NOT feeling them this time of year.
This IS the time to feel all of those things. And the beauty of Christmas is the hope that even if death, new life is being born.
So, in this busy time, when your emotions are running wild, take a moment to step outside and look at the trees. Breathe in the cold air and allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. Look at the bare trees and take comfort in the reminder that they will be green again.
No matter what your personal winter looks like, spring will come. Hope is in the air. It may feel cold, it may all feel lifeless, but the beauty of Christmas is the reminder that even in this time, new life is being born.