Christmas: A State of Mind
I was watching this movie the other day, and no one probably empathizes more than I do with Charlie Brown’s sentiments about the season. Despite being excited about the holiday season, I dread the eventual gloom that follows – going back to work, to normal life.
If you haven’t already watched the movie – a frowning Charlie brown says, “I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”( I know that feeling, Chuck! ) Immediately, Linus responds saying, “Charlie Brown, you are the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.” (I know, right?)
Flashing lights. Singing Reindeer. Christmas Specials. Parades. Parties. The Holidays – a time for joy, peace, and good tidings for all. We anticipate Christmas to be a magical time of the year, when all our problems disappear under the sparkle of a 600-watt treetop star.
Or maybe not.
So many tragedies, shootings, deaths, loved ones departing to a better place, lost opportunities and so on. How can we continue having Christmas spirit in our hearts, despite all these bad things?
Knowing Christmas is supposed to be a reason for celebration doesn’t always make the season bright.
For many, this time of year dredges up memories that stay locked in a chest the other eleven months of the year.
For most millennials, holidays are a time off from work, time to spend with family, feasts, decorations and everything bright and shiny. But what follows is the dread of the eventual gloom of going back to normal. I struggle living in the present; I am always thinking and planning for the next day. I am sure a lot of us feel this way. I wish there was a way to feel less anxious about the season, or even better, to feel joyful – in this season and all year.
Here are just a few things I learned from the Christmas story – living with the Christmas spirit is not just something we can enjoy only in December. If we carefully understand it, the birth of Christ can help us live with this joyful spirit for the rest of the year or even the rest of our lives.
- Learn to Rest – The bible puts a lot of emphasis on “resting.” God rested on the seventh day after creating the universe. Mary and Joseph rested while on their journey to Bethlehem. There is this grand story that is going to change the course of history through the birth of Jesus and yet Mary and Joseph chose to rest. It is OK to slow down, rest and rejuvenate. This holiday season I am allowing myself to rest. I am not buying into the commercialism of the marketing world. I believe I will be more than okay and I won’t miss anything if I take some time off. For millennials, the challenge is to intentionally put down social media, phone, and TV remote. Not only does this come in handy during this festive season, but during the rest of the year as well.
Rest Physically. Rest Emotionally. Rest Spiritually in His promises.
For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:10+11)
- Embrace Uncertainty – If God has been anything to me, He has been a Divine Provider. As a young girl, a lonely immigrant that came to the United States, I relied heavily on God’s providence and was often amazed at how He made ways for me. Yet, I still worry about everything; I fear change; I cannot embrace anything outside my comfort zone. There was no room for baby Jesus at the Inn, He was born in a manger, but God provided for him. Every step along the way, Mary and Joseph were assured of safety and shelter. This season I am going to shun anxiety, embrace change and get out of my comfort zone! I pray and hope that I will continue to do so for the rest of my Life.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19)
- Be a Giver – The birth of Jesus tell us a lot about givers. The wise men, the people who let Mary and Joseph into the manger, the shepherds and even God himself. I have always struggled with giving my talents to God. God loves a cheerful giver. While there is nothing we can give God except our hearts, we can still reflect God’s goodness when we give to others. Acts of love and giving never go unnoticed, God rewards us in due time. People become extra generous this season, but not so much the rest of the year. This Christmas my hope is to begin giving – a hug, a smile, a positive thought, time, love, money, kindness, forgiveness (for ‘giving’) whenever I can. It would be a great loss if the people in our lives received our perfectly wrapped gifts, but not our love or our full attention or our spirit.
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
When I have a bad day, when people are being mean, when life is not as I hope for it to be – I start humming Christmas carols to myself. It changes my mood and my environment and there is suddenly something in the air that makes me feel merrier. After the carols have been sung, after taking down the Christmas lights, eating all the delicacies . . . we are left with our same old non-Christmassy selves. I wonder how differently I would react to certain things if every day were Christmas. It is surprising how much kindness and love we can conjure up just by ruminating on the spirit of Christmas for the rest of our lives.
As Harlan Miller said, “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”