Don’t be a grumpy Grinch carrying around a sack full of anxieties.
Somehow it hits me every year, that panicky feeling that I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done–the shopping, the gift giving, the singing, the merry-making, the traveling–and still be a sane human being by the time Christmas arrives.
I want to be a peace-giving person at this season when the Prince of Peace came. I want to wish everybody a deeply felt Merry Christmas, not Harried Christmas. I don’t want to be grumpy Grinch carrying around a sack full of anxieties.
So in thinking about how to de-stress for Christmas I have come up with some prescriptions for myself. Maybe they’ll help you too.
1) Trust the journey.
That first Christmas began with a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a young woman heavy with child, making her way with her newly espoused husband. They lived in a country with a violent king– Herod–and an unforgiving foreign force–the Romans–who had called for a census. Wouldn’t it have been easier to stay at home? But they got on the road and trusted.
2) Listen to the angels.
The angels show up in the oddest places, the stranger on a crowded subway train who offers to pray for you, the saleswoman at Macy’s who knows exactly the right size and color, the friend who appears out of the blue to help you put up the lights.
3) Stop and look.
The wise men looked at the sky for direction, following the guidance of a star that appeared in the East. It led them to the right place but only because they kept staring at it, following it. I remember once hurrying through a half-dozen errands. Then I stopped and noticed: there in the middle of the street, hanging overhead was the most beautiful star lit with a thousand lights. It only took a few seconds to savor it, delight in it, but it made all the difference in the world.
4) Remember the child in you.
I keep on my desk a woodblock cutting I made as a kid. “Merry Christmas, Ricky” it says. I can’t imagine ever doing something like that. I’m not a particularly gifted artist. But when I look at it, I remember the excitement Christmas brought, the anticipation, the joy. The child is inside of all of us. Hold on to it. Treasure the memories. You’re still capable of that joy.
5) Jesus is in the season.
Jesus was the way God expressed His love for us flawed, distracted, not always lovable human beings. God became a human to show us how we could become like God. “Love came down at Christmas/Love all loving, love divine…” goes a treasured lyric. Keep love behind all that you do at Christmas. Love is what Jesus is all about.