“Stress-mas?”…or Something Better

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Christmas is almost here.

What does that statement cause inside you? Stress because you are not ready for the guests and the food and the gifts?  Or excitement because you love the Christmas Eve worship and the joy of Christmas morning and the unwrapping and the laughter?  Or both?

It is truly a dichotomy, this season.  I can feel total peace, excitement and joy, and almost simultaneously feel complete stress. Can anyone relate?  I love the music, and the sweet manger scene in our living room, and the tradition of cutting down our tree in the mountains, and the joy on our children’s faces when they open gifts they love.  I love buying new wrapping paper and doing ornament exchanges with friends.  I enjoy the cookie exchanges and the Christmas shopping with our family and the parties.   I love the hope that the season brings of Jesus’s birth and what that represents.  I love the holiness.

Yet, it is during these 3-4 weeks preceding Christmas that I feel so much stress (my friend Erin calls it “Stress-mas”).  It’s getting the Christmas cards out on time and organizing everyone’s gift lists to send out to family and racing to the store four times in two days to get the ingredients for the baking to be done, or that extra string of lights that just burned out on the tree or the pair of nylons needed for the party that night.   The frenzy seems inevitable.

This year I am trying to take the stress and turn it into remembrance.

See, all the stress revolves around things that spark anticipation.  We anticipate getting our friends Christmas cards in the mail, finding that perfect tree, picking out just the right gift, celebrating at friend’s homes, or that delicious meal being prepared.  And of course, the ultimate anticipation of  unwrapping of gifts Christmas morning.   God has built anticipation into the season because anticipation is what it is ALL about……Anticipating the birth of our Savior.

Isn’t that right?  The nation of Israel waited for hundreds of years for their Savior to come.  He had been foretold in scriptures and by prophets.  He was their hope!  They had to believe that someday God would become man and walk among them and reconnect them to God.  And he did, but not without the anticipation of his people over time.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, Or the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

We can’t forget that when Jesus finally became God incarnate, it was “FINALLY!”  Through generations and generations of patience and faith and bloodshed and hope, the people of God had waited for the promised one to appear on this earth.

And now, through so many woven threads of this season of Christmas, we recreate that anticipation.  We do and make and give so that we can make people happy, and we get to be expectant of that joy!  We look forward to so much leading up to Christmas Day, and while that can create stress, it is all for the joy of the season.  We are creating memories and establishing tradition.  We are sharing love.

If we are able, in the next few days when we are feeling a little frenzied, let us remember this idea of anticipation.   Like hunger pangs during a fast remind us to think of God, let the lists and the gifts and the countdown remind us of the reason for the season!  Let us remember Jesus and how much we look forward to celebrating His birth.

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