Is it really possible to have a stress-free Christmas? Remember when you were a child and Christmas was a glorious mixture of parties, Christmas tree decorations, beautiful lights, Christmas cookies, going to the mall and sitting on Santa’s lap, dreaming about the presents awaiting you? When did all of that change?
For most of us, the transition to a stress-plagued holiday season came as we accumulated more responsibilities, such as putting on the church Christmas program, beginning our own Christmas card list, and budgeting our own income to somehow include gifts for not only our family, but a few friends and the office party.
Then with marriage and children, stress became STRESS! Even singles accumulate added responsibilities…more nieces and nephews, more friends, more parties and more pressures at the workplace. We barely have time to take care of all of these, let alone add the multitudes of “It’s my turn to give a party this year”, “I’ve got to get my gifts wrapped and mailed by next week”, “I’ve got to get my Christmas cards written” and “I’ve got to save enough out of my paycheck to get a tree!”
As we pass through the checkout stand at the grocery store, we can’t help but see all of the holiday clad magazines, offering recipes for that gorgeous Christmas cake on the cover, or the perfect Christmas dinner, where to get bargain gifts under $25, how to make your own table runner, cards, gifts and personalized ornaments. Actually, some even have great articles on how to reduce “holiday stress”.
So what can I add to this subject of avoiding stress at Christmas? You’ve heard it before, but I’m here to tell you, it’s by far the best way to really return our childish memories of colored lights, joy, Christmas music and celebration into a reality again. Of course, it starts with understanding what it’s really all about…Christmas, I mean. We are really celebrating God’s most precious gift to us: Jesus. Jesus, God’s only Son, divine in nature, equal in holiness, the One in the Godhead who spoke the world into existence at His Father’s direction, the One, along with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, who chose to create man and woman in their image, with the ability to choose whether to return their love and completely obey or not. Jesus, who from the very beginning, knew what Adam and Eve would choose, obeyed His Father, and at the appointed time left the glories of heaven, and was planted into a human woman’s womb to be born as a man! He had a mission on earth, a divine assignment: to show this created being of His, who had lost his way, what a loving and merciful God is really like. He had an even more important assignment: to reveal by contrast with His own holiness the ungodliness of man…his sins. And most important of all was this divine matter of God’s justice being satisfied. Jesus came to pay the redemption price demanded by our sin with His own body. He came to deliver us from the plan of Satan which is the enslavement to sin.
When we start there, all our other concerns about Christmas seem to be frivolous at best. So the next question is, “How can I celebrate Christmas, retaining the joy, peace and the awesome truth it professes. My Savior has come! My Father in heaven loves me so much that He gave His only Son as an offering for my sin, and the Spirit of Truth to help me to live in that knowledge.” Well, I think we need to understand that God loves celebrating, festivals and joyous God-honoring gatherings. He, Himself, authorized and commanded the Feasts that were celebrated in the Old Testament by Israel, God’s people. Their purpose was to help the Israelites remember the great and earth-changing events authored by God.
He wanted them to be grateful and encouraged and to rejoice in the One God who loved them, and wanted so much for them. He wanted them to go on with their lives in peace and the knowledge that He was with them and would provide all they needed if they lived in obedience to Him.
First, there was the Festival of the Passover. For the Israelites, this reminded them of their miraculous deliverance from captivity in Egypt. The symbolism in their celebration of this Feast spoke of the Passover Lamb and the unleavened bread.
For us, it speaks of the Holy Son of God, Jesus’ offering of Himself as our sacrifice, the perfect Passover Lamb, that takes away the sin of the world, once and for all. So we see that even these ancient feasts have relevance to our lives today.
Next on the Hebrew calendar was the Feast of First Fruits, which was really part of the extended Passover and Unleavened Bread Feasts. Celebrated in the spring, it was a time to give thanks for the first planting’s harvest, which provided their tithes and provision. For us, we see the resurrected Jesus, the first fruits of those who are asleep (those who have died).
Then comes the Feast of Weeks, the end of the barley, the beginning of the wheat harvests. Again, it was a time to remember the goodness of a God who causes a tiny seed to grow into a life-giving grain which then provides more seed in order to perpetuate the provision for the needs of His people. We connect this Feast with Pentecost. On Pentecost, God poured out the Holy Spirit on everyone who would receive it, as promised by Jesus before He left to rejoin His Father in heaven, energizing and empowering ordinary men and women to change the entire world as they spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Most importantly for the Israelites, the Feast of Trumpets begins a series of holidays in the fall of the year. Beginning with the Jewish New Year’s Day (Rosh Hashanah), then the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and finally the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths – Ingathering). The Israelites celebrated then, as they do today, the beginning of their history as a nation – a day of fasting and prayer, repenting for their sins and ending up with a great campout for a week celebrating the goodness of their God.
For us today, we anticipate the last trumpet which will announce Jesus’ Second Coming…this time as King of Kings, Ruler of the Nations and our rejoining with Him and receiving our Resurrected bodies. Then we will spend an eternity celebrating the goodness of our God.
So we see that our Heavenly Father is really into feasts, festivals and celebration. We need these times to stop and reflect on what He has done for us and what He is doing in us and what is coming up on His schedule of events.
Why not try something new this year? First, review your schedule, your must-dos, and your would-like-to-dos.Second, prioritize them with what this Feast of Christmas is all about. Third, explain to family members what and why you want to do this. If they complain, listen with an open heart and maybe make some changes; after all it should be a joyous and happy time for everyone. If their requests don’t line up with the true reason for the season, guide them gently back to the things we are celebrating, not what all the TV ads proclaim, or the store displays, or even the latest Christmas movie which may distort the truth.
Some practical suggestions might be to begin in the first part of December, or on the First Sunday in Advent to tell again and again the wonderful story of God’s most precious gift to us. Tell them that December is like an Old Testament Feast, lasting for four weeks. Tell them that everything we do this month is to celebrate and remember this gift given to us – Jesus. Do this instead of making Christmas gift lists and concentrating on what you will be getting for Christmas this year.
While we’re on the subject of gifts, why not finish up all your Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving (or Black Friday). You may have to start this next year, but do this in a thoughtful way throughout the year as you see items or get ideas that might please your family and friends. It also is a little easier on the budget, spreading the expense out over the year. However, you may have to hide the children’s gifts at grandma’s or a friend’s house.
With a little bit of creativity, we can keep the stress out of Christmas and enjoy the Celebration!
You may contact Judy Lokits at: www.judylokits.com.