It is a fascinating thing to watch people from the time the Thanksgiving meal is cleaned up to the time we usher in a new year. As one who dislikes crowds, watching people is the only thing that makes being at the mall an acceptable thing for me at this time of year. The attitudes I see are varied. Some are more pleasant at this time of year than they are for most of the calendar year. Others are depressed. Some marvel at the beauty of the lights and festive decor. Others cringe at the crowds, the chaos, and the inability to find a parking place. Some enjoy the comforting thought that the Prince of Peace has come into the world. Others scramble, and even fight one another on sales floors to get the obligatory gifts they must acquire to experience a successful Christmas holiday.
I choose to avoid the spike in blood-pressure that all too often accompanies this season (and every season) by approaching it with the mentality Jesus told me to embrace. Jesus describes the frettings and chaos that come with the worries of life, and the charges us to respond to that chaos and those worries in this way, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) But there is so much to do! (Seek first his kingdom…) But there is so much to buy! (Seek first his kingdom…) But there are so many worries tied to charging up the credit card, and having to pay it back later. (Seek first his kingdom…) But I have to clean the house for company. (Seek first his kingdom…) But there is the expense of a Christmas dinner. (Seek first his kingdom…)
My wife is out of state, visiting family, as I write this. I intensely dislike being apart from her, but I take advantage of those times apart to do projects around the house that tend to be messy – painting, construction, auto repairs, etc. That way, I can leave the mess from day to day, and just pick up where I left off the day before. Besides being a good time for messy projects, it helps me not miss my wife so much when I can stay busy with little projects. She and I spoke earlier this week, and I assured her I would have the house all clean before she gets home, knowing that the kids will be coming for a Christmas visit very soon. She wisely reminded me, “It’s okay. They are coming to see us, not the house.”
There is that tendency within us to want to work ourselves silly to make the Christmas season a perfect experience for everyone except us. The perfect meal, the perfect gift, the perfect decoration, the perfect concert, the perfect home. Instead, we ought to focus on the perfect child and the perfect peace he brings us. Martha struggled with this (in Luke 10) when Jesus came to visit her home. She labored vigorously to create the perfect environment for a visit from the Lord. The more she labored, the more irritated she became that her sister was not helping. Martha was sweating while Mary was sitting … sitting at the feet of the Prince of Peace. When Martha finally blew her cork, Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things.” (Luke 10:41)
Note that Jesus did not comment on Martha’s service, or her preparation. What he commented on was her mentality, her mind-set. “You are worried and bothered.” Jesus used the same word in describing Martha’s anxiety that he used to tell the disciples to not be anxious, but rather to seek first the kingdom. If you find peace and comfort in purchasing and giving gifts, then purchase and give with gladness. If you find joy and fulfillment in preparing a wondrous meal for family and friends, then cook and serve, finding contentment in that service. But if you find yourself fending off anxiety tied to the activities of the Christmas season, I urge you to examine your heart and your motivation. Ask yourself why you are engaged in that which does not bring you peace, comfort and joy?
Seek first his kingdom. Be not worried and bothered about many things. As Jesus said, “Only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her.”
Merry Christmas to you all!
Victoriously in Christ!