Got peace? It’s no secret that while Christmas is a favorite time of year for many, for others it causes great distress and sadness. Christmas is just a few days away, and while many of us are getting increasingly excited, some are experiencing exponential panic. There are many reasons for this, but rather than taking a deep dive into the root causes of anxiety and depression during the holiday season, I want to share some thoughts on how you can prevent yourself from becoming unwrapped! The best way I know how to do that is to share the true message of Christmas with you, because contrary to popular belief, Christmas isn’t just for Christians – it’s for everyone, and it’s wrapped in peace:
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace tothose on whom his favor rests’.” (Luke 2:4-14, NIV)
We started a tradition when my boys were very young, to read this passage of Scripture on Christmas morning before opening presents, because it centered all of us, and reminded us what we were celebrating. Even though my boys are grown and living on their own, I have continued this tradition because it is so grounding, so peaceful. When you reflect on the text, it brings purpose to Christmas, and when you have a greater sense of purpose, you have a decreased sense of panic.
The reaction of the shepherds when the angel showed up to tell them that Jesus, the Savior, was born, was fear; they were “terrified”! Can you imagine an angel appearing out of nowhere to talk to you? A mixture of excitement and fear would likely be my response. Most of us fear what we don’t understand, or are unfamiliar with. But I love the angel’s response to their trepidation; “Do not be afraid…I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” There it is – “all” people – not some, or a few…”all”. The fact that a Savior was born is a fact for us all! God knew that our greatest need as human beings was for forgiveness, so he sent us a Savior. That’s how much God loves us – all of us. He took care of our greatest need, and Christmas is a reminder of his love and provision for all of us.
Hope whispers, peace on earth.
What better reason to celebrate! That’s why after the angels told the shepherds not to be afraid, they reminded them that the news of Jesus’ birth would be cause for great joy. Christmas is meant to be a time of celebration! It’s Jesus birthday after all, and that’s why another tradition at my house is to make a birthday cake for Jesus every Christmas and sing Happy Birthday to Him. What’s a birthday party without a birthday cake? Maybe creating some new traditions at your house, or resurrecting some old ones, will bring more purpose to your Christmas.
If you find yourself getting panicky this week in preparation for December 25th, stop and ask yourself, what am I celebrating? Staying focused on the true meaning of Christmas just might shut down your panic responses this holiday season when everything doesn’t go as perfectly as those Christmas carols suggest they should. What’s not peaceful about a baby lying in a manger? Close your eyes and picture that. Celebrate that. Release your fears. Renew your mind. Reflect on the message the angels delivered more than 2,000 years ago – a message for all of us. The hope of peace on earth; something we all long for. And then, consider opening yourself up to the idea of a relationship with God this Christmas; it will be the greatest gift you have ever unwrapped.