My Mom’s side of the family really knows how to throw a family reunion. Picture 40-50 people ranging from infants to great-grandparents, a food table with twice as many desserts as entrées, and the obligatory post dinner football game for jocks of all ages. Typically, The Reunion is held somewhere in North Florida the day after Thanksgiving – providing easy access to the all important Florida vs. Florida State football game on Saturday. This family reunion is absolutely a not-to-be-missed event …except some years when I miss it.
Somehow the holidays become filled with “not-to-be-missed” events, so many in fact, you would have to be super human to accomplish them all. There are presents to buy, friends to see, family to visit and events to attend. But why? Why do we pack from Thanksgiving to New Years with more activities than any other time of the year?
Why? Because God sent His only Son Jesus Christ to earth as a gift so we may be reunited with our heavenly Father once and for all. But what does buying a bathrobe for my Mom, or attending the “rob your neighbor” gift exchange at work have to do with Jesus? Well, that’s kind of up to you. If the holidays are just a stream of irritating responsibilities, then these activities probably have nothing to do with Jesus. But if the holidays are an opportunity for you to share the undeserved joy that Jesus has brought into your life, then these simple events take on a whole new meaning.
But it’s not easy to have the true spirit of Christmas. The danger can come when we start to think things like “I have to go.” “I never miss.” “I am always there.” As you are looking at your list of things to do, beware if you hear yourself using the words “Never” and “Always” like in: “I always make the turkey.” or “We never celebrate at their house.” Something about traditions make these words come up too often. Personally, I think Never and Always are really words that should be reserved for Jesus because He is the only guy that can stand by them. Always. After all, that’s the reason for the season. Jesus came so we will ALWAYS be loved and NEVER be forsaken.
So, how do you increase your joy and decrease your stress? Design your own Christmas. REALLY! Christmas is not something that happens to you each year with no involvement from yourself. Your Christmas is impacted by a series of decisions you make beginning now. Don’t let Christmas happen to you when you were not paying attention. Decide what you want your Christmas to look like. How? First, do those things that actually give you joy. They’re important. Next, for those unavoidable obligations that you are not so excited about, pray for God to give you a gracious heart. God’s gift of His Son is so powerful it can override office parties, visits from your in-laws and even excessive service events at church. Listen: The Christ Child is lying in the manger waiting for you this Christmas in a whole new way. Don’t miss Him!