Have yourself a stressful little Christmas

Well, our nation has survived another Black Friday. Did you participate? In our town people set up their camping tents and spent the night on the sidewalk so they could be among the first in the door at 6 A.M. I will say that it would take a prodigious amount of money to get me to do that. I certainly would never do it for free. But the pressure isn’t over; in fact, it’s just beginning. If you don’t take control of your December, it will take control of you.

How much of what you do in December is driven by

  • Insecurity? You go into hyperdrive to try to feel better about yourself.
  • Peer pressure? Admit it—you wouldn’t do 30% of the stuff you do if you wouldn’t feel judged unworthy by people watching you. You are trying to live up to other people’s expectations.
  • Work-righteousness? You are trying to make up for past failures by working extra hard for your family’s approval. Your Christmas performance hopefully will get people to forgive you and like you again.
  • Ghosts? You are haunted by expectations from your dead mother or grandmother that you have to do everything they did. You have to bake. You have to decorate. You have to shop really early, buying sale and bargain items only. You have to make some gifts by hand. You have to send greeting cards to hundreds of people. You have to generate the funniest and newsiest holiday newsletter ever, and of course you have to have a formal family portrait taken. You have to wrap. You have to go to every gathering. You have to kill yourself putting on the grandest feast in family history.
  • Self-imposed pressure?—you feel that it’s up to you to give Christmas to your family, and if your performance isn’t perfect, Christmas will be a dud. And it will be all your fault.

It’s not up to you to “give Christmas.” Jesus already did that. The way out of the Christmas stress loop is to start with Jesus and put him in the middle. Nothing deserves the descriptor Christmas unless Jesus is in the middle. Everything else is “winter” or “December” only, and everything else is negotiable.

  • Know your limits. Stop before you get there. You don’t want your family events to whizz by in a haze of fatigue.
  • Have fun with your preparations. When they aren’t fun anymore, stop.
  • Give yourself permission to say no to some things. That doesn’t make you less a Christian or mother or father.

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of several books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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