Here we are – the Christmas season is upon us. (Just wanted to make sure you knew.) As Jen mentioned in her post a few days ago, some of us are already bone-weary tired and exhausted. And let’s face it, some are also quite depressed, although I checked the stats: according to many reputable sites on the world-wide web, depression during the holidays is no higher now than at any other time. Well, I’m not sure I buy that, but I probably don’t have a vote since I have suffered from clinical depression for years.
In my opinion, there are so many external factors that could lead a person into depression (or into further depression) around Christmas. But to me, many of these things boil down to one major category: Expectations. We expect to find the perfect gift for everyone on our list. We expect to receive the perfect gift from everyone. We expect to have enough money for all of those gifts. We’re expected to have some extra money/items/time/energy to give to those in need. We expect to have a perfectly decorated house. We expect to have an overabundance of energy to haul all of the stuff up and down the stairs, two or three times. We expect our family/friends to treat us kindly. We expect to treat our family members/friends kindly. I could go on and on.
I was listening to the radio the other day, and the DJ asked people to phone in to share their best Christmas memory. I was sad to admit, that one had me stumped. Then I felt bad. I should have been able (expected myself) to come up with something awe-inspiring! But first, my mind went through all of the disappointments, and yes, even tragedies. Close family members passed away. Plans were shattered. Kids were sick. Everyone was sick. There were disagreements. Boyfriend-girlfriend breakups. (Guys, please don’t break up on Christmas eve. Please.) Sadness at not getting just the right gift for someone. Fears of receiving the credit card bills.
But finally, I latched onto some good Christmas memories: Playing keyboards and singing with the choir on Christmas eve. Our children helping to re-enact Jesus’ birth. The girls singing solos and duets. Nearly giving birth to our baby girl. As a child, what came to my mind as a good memory was the humongous Christmas tree in the old sanctuary of St. Martini Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. That was back in the days when the heavy pieces of aluminum tinsel (saved from year to year) were placed one piece at a time, just so. Oh my, even to a child’s eyes that tree was beautiful, as was the nativity set placed nearby.
One key thing I’ve learned this year (well, if repeating it to myself counts as “learned”) is that I can expect my emotions to get the best of me when I’m one of these things: tired, in pain, sick, stressed, or hungry. Knowing that I will probably be at least one of these nearly every day, I want to lower my–no, wait–have no expectations. How about if I trust God with the details of my life, as I always suggest other people do? I want to take care not to overdo, from the decorating to the gift buying to the time, money and energy spent. That may or may not happen. But, what I really, really want to do is have ample time to sit at Jesus’ feet and worship Him. In this busy, crazy, scary world of today, my heart longs to connect more fully with my Father’s heart. I want to know God more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly, day by day. (Yes, it’s a song, but also a prayer written by St. Richard of Worcestershire, England in the 1200’s.)
You know, as I’ve been writing this, it’s become very apparent to me (duh) that the enemy surely must work harder during this time of year to distract us from our connection with God. But, the good news for us who believe is there’s Good News! Unto us is born a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord. There is no need to fear or cower from Satan, for we have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. Even those disappointments and challenges mentioned above, they are nothing–for nothing is too hard for the God of all mankind! (Jeremiah 32:27) And the very best news? The prophet Isaiah declared, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)
Oh God, Immanuel, God with us, God with me, I need You. Thank you again for being born on earth for me, and for being born in me.
God bless you, my beautiful friends!