Ahhh… The leaves are changing colors, the air is cooling, our favorite retail merchants are all trying to fit Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations into their stores' spaces all in the same week. October - November is an onslaught of charity banquets, work parties, family gatherings and school events. Beloved. The holiday season is upon us… Can you feel it??? (Insert dramatic music)
As wonderful as the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be, this is my yearly reminder… This time of year can also be emotionally draining for a lot of people, including myself at times. The holiday season; in a fallen and consumer driven world comes packed full of emotional trauma. Including but not limited to, failed Hallmark channel-esque expectations, unruly family engagements, over-taxed wallets and calendars, overwhelming feelings of grief over lost loved ones and estranged family members. Don’t forget seasonal depression, unrealistic cultural demands that you must be unreasonably cheery and bright, and my personal arch nemesis, wind chapped lips. I know I sound like a downer but it’s true. We Americans invest a lot of our emotions and expectations into the outcome of the next four months. The result is we find ourselves incredibly let down by the unpredictable, psychological roller coaster that comes with this time of year.
So before you fight with your spouse over which ornaments go on the front of the Christmas tree (please tell my wife the ones representing sports teams go on the front), argue politics with a relative you’ve not seen in 364 days, or post on Facebook why Christians shouldn’t let their kids trick-or-treat... Let me remind you of what you are actually responsible for during the holiday season.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Mark 12:30-31
I know it almost seems too easy. Love God, Love neighbor, Love myself. What could be so hard about that? Well my friend, to that I say that you have probably never experienced Wal-Mart on Black Friday. All jokes aside, the holiday season can really cause the worst parts of our humanity to come to surface and cause us all to completely forget this great mandate from Jesus. So how do we prevent the dreaded holiday season of “emotional burn-out”? Well I’m glad you asked!! I have some tips based on Mark 12 that you might find helpful to navigate through the holiday season.
1 . Don’t stop spending time with Jesus and His Word. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but when the schedules really ramp up come mid December, the temptation is to tell ourselves we don’t have time to read our Bibles and pray. I promise you the opposite is true, and that you cannot afford not to spend time with Jesus. Not only is it imperative during high stress seasons to have routines, but you also need to have your heart grounded in the eternal perspective of our glorious King! The health of your soul depends upon your ability to spend time with your Creator. Not only does your soul depend on this, but so do the people closest to you…
2. Avoid placing unhealthy emotional burdens and expectations on others to fulfill. Again, much easier said than done. This becomes especially hard when navigating through church communities and large extended family gatherings. All of us have our own picturesque ideas of how holiday gatherings should look. The only thing standing between us and the perfect holiday event? Other people… Ironic I know. Christ-like relationships look like loving other people without expecting anything in return. Learning to love people for their uniqueness and quirky-ness without demanding conformity to a specific holiday status quo; is directly connected to how you love God and also how you love yourself…
3. Take care of yourself. Believe it or not self care is a form of worship! The command is to love others as you would love yourself. Isn't that wonderful? To truly love others, you must first love yourself. Unfortunately, self care is not just eating an entire tray of Christmas cookies. It’s taking time for yourself, reflecting on how you feel about the situation you are in and allowing God to expose and heal any wounds in your heart. If you need to skip an important holiday event, don’t worry about it. Even if you have to gracefully disappoint people with your absence. If you have to go slow while everyone else is in hustle mode, so what!? Do what you have to do. Remember to savor the moments you can, and let go of the desire to control the outcome of the uncontrollable.
Truthfully, I have a lot to be grateful for during this time of year and a lot of what I said above is easier said than done for a person in my life situation. Above all, I want you to know that myself and the entire church staff is here for you and we love you deeply. I also want you to know that whether you love this time of year or hate it, it's totally fine. I look forward to walking through the end of this year with you as we prepare for a New Year of pursuing Jesus and His Kingdom with all of our hearts, as a revival family.