Christmas. We look forward to it because it’s a symbol of hope. A time of hopeful anticipation when anything can happen. Expectations can run high over the holidays, which makes it all the more painful if depression or anxiety set in. And for those who are experiencing loneliness, the holidays may seem to magnify it. Disappointment can replace joyful anticipation, making Christmas something to endure rather than enjoy.
So how do we bring some of that “Joy to the world” and “peace on earth” home with us?
Learn from the past. Many of us have certain events that we attend every year. Events where we’ve allowed the same person to steal the joy of the holidays for us. Maybe it’s a co-worker. Or a friend. Maybe it’s a family member who has sent us into an emotional tale spin year after year. If this has been our experience, how do we do this Christmas differently? Do we go into the holidays with guns loaded, anticipating a battle? No, BUT, it can be really helpful to talk to the Lord about it ahead of time. Ask Him to:
- Protect: protect our relationships, the event and our hearts.
- Guide our responses to others. If nothing changes, nothing changes. While others may not change what they say or do, our response can bring change. Deciding what we are and are NOT going to agree with can drastically change the outcome.
- Help us see ourselves and others accurately. Resist the tendency to fall back into old, outdated views of ourselves.
Another way that we can maintain joy and peace over the holidays is by resisting the temptation to take a spiritual vacation. In all the busyness of the holidays, it’s all too easy to let Bible reading and prayer slide. It takes intentionality to maintain our walk with God over the holidays. But without it, we’re easy prey for the enemy because we’re running on fumes. It’s all too easy to make a big deal over Christmas, but completely ignore “the birthday boy.” It may mean setting our alarm a little earlier, but it will be well worth the effort. Psalm 16:11 says, “… in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what we know is true: Joy doesn’t come from the presents, but from the presence. God’s precious presence protects our joy at Christmas.
Another way to maintain joy and peace over the holidays is to submit our Christmas shopping to God. Overspending is a set-up for worry and anxiety. I’m preaching to the choir here. It’s SO easy to drift into greed at Christmas time, but as we steward our finances well, our peace is guarded.
Another way to preserve our joy and peace at Christmastime is to deal with any offense as quickly as possible. Offense is a door-opener to the spirit of heaviness mentioned in Isaiah 61:1-3. We know we are warring against heaviness if we are experiencing discouragement, despair, depression, defeat or longing for premature death. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Forgiving anyone who has offended us allows the healing process to begin. If we allow it to, offense can take us out for the rest of the holiday season. Instead of letting the wound fester, taking time to unpack the pain with God shortens the duration of the pain and restores joy.
We can also hold onto joy and peace over the holidays by building in time with those who are life giving. This can feel counter-intuitive if loneliness has already set in. It takes picking up the phone and intentionally getting something on the calendar. Look for those relationships where you have found connection and vulnerability in the past. Make healthy connection a part of your holiday traditions.
Another way to maintain joy and peace over the holidays is to keep our spiritual armor on. It’s all too easy to focus on our holiday outfits, yet overlook the need to get dressed spiritually. Ephesians 6 says,
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
This passage tells us how to get dressed spiritually: by keeping the belt of truth on. We do this as we speak truth. We keep our gospel shoes on by seizing opportunities to share the true meaning of Christmas. Keep the shield of faith in place even if the holidays go sideways.
The holidays are a common time for our faith to be tested. We don’t need to fear this, but we do need to be aware. We are SO protected as we remember Who the guest of honor is.
May the joys of the season be yours,