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When Christmas is Hard

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

The first Christmas was hard. A young virgin had a baby in a barn, her only assistant a man she hadn't "known." She'd been in labor all day, riding a donkey. Awesome. I mean, what could be better? I once rode in my husband's old pickup truck when I was eight months pregnant. As we bumped along, I couldn't help but think of Mary, in labor, on that donkey. She'd definitely had better days.


Our hard is much different today, but this huge celebration of that baby's birth has gotten out of control. Buying gifts. Christmas programs. The annual Christmas party. Financial strain. Family dynamics. Travel. Volunteering. Church programs and events. Christmas cards. It's a lot. It feels like everything is a necessity. It doesn't have to be though. You may laugh cynically at that statement, thinking "If she only knew everything I have to do (or everyone I have to deal with)..."


I do understand that there are things that can push you to the point of breaking. There was a time in my life when I begged for the luxury of being stressed out over any of those things, hanging on to the metaphorical ledge by my fingernails. If you're not just trying to survive right now, that IS a luxury and you certainly do have a choice about what must be done and what can be missed. Any time you decide to establish boundaries to protect your peace, it can mean that your loved ones won't understand or will feel slighted. It isn't your job to manage their emotions though. It's your job to manage yourself, communicate clearly, and trust God to take care of the rest.


Is it honoring to God when you're so busy that your body starts to break down? Does it honor your family when the stress of it all means you're angry and grumpy while attending to all the "celebrations"? Does it honor yourself when you ache over the way you've treated those you love the most? ...and pay close attention here... You've likely treated your closest and most treasured people badly because you want to impress people who don't matter to you as much as they do. And in my experience, those people aren't going to be happy or impressed anyway.


Yikes. (Guilty.)


Once you've established in your own heart and mind that the peace of your immediate family (and yourself) is worth protecting, you decide what's truly important. In our family, we also have several other important dates in December. Like us, you may have family in other states, so you either host them in your home or travel to theirs. Some of you have local family and rush from house to house, trying not to miss any of the celebrations. Lay all those important things out before the Lord and pray for guidance. What truly must be done and what can be negotiated differently?


This year, I made a decision that I won't add anything extra to my calendar unless it's something I'm passionate about. I requested a rain check on a speaking opportunity, but I moved some things around to accept an opportunity to sing Christmas music at church. Singing is something I haven't done much of (except around the house) in several years and I miss it. I'm willing to be inconvenienced for the pleasure of it, and I have the luxury of good health and time to do so.


My husband and I decided that celebrating our anniversary in December isn't necessary. The actual date is less important than the impressive feat of staying married another year. We get away for a few days in January or February instead. Last year, we had just moved into our new house which was still unfinished, so we didn't do much decorating. Even though we had beautiful family photos, we didn't send out our traditional Christmas cards. It was our 10-year anniversary and I'm pretty sure we gave each other a fist bump as we tried not to step on nails in our bare feet. If we did celebrate, sorry honey, I was too stressed out to remember it.


Even with careful planning, I cannot claim to make it through December gracefully. My family will be happy to tell you that I still get stressed out and when that happens, I am no fun. But I'm working on it. My prayer is that I can savor the most important things if I'm not running ragged over the things that can be postponed, delegated, or deleted from my list.


What if you also make the decision to savor the most important things and let the lesser things go? When an opportunity comes up, ask yourself if doing it will make it more difficult to enjoy the best things, or if it will be something you will truly find joy in.


That will mean that some good things don't get done at all, or at least not until later. Maybe you'll acknowledge that some of those things aren't good at all and you aren't going to spend your precious energy pretending to enjoy them. Evaluate. Reconsider.


The birth of Jesus is the reason we celebrate. If what you're trying to accomplish feels more like drudgery than celebration, remember that Jesus was born in a barn and his cradle was a feed trough. Is there anything more simple than that?


If you need help prioritizing or finding the courage to make changes, shoot me a message. That may be something I can help out with.


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