Christmas time is a bag full of mixed emotions.
Enjoyment – of extra gatherings of family & friends
Emotional Stress – caused by extra gatherings of family & friends
Exhaustion – due to extra gatherings of family & friends
Expectations – of problems solved & loves reunited (the way it always happens in Christmas movies)
Disappointment – because not all problems are solved & loves are united (the way it always happens in Christmas movies)
Fond Memories – of loved ones & past Christmases
Painful Memories – of loved ones & past Christmases
Joy – in planning & gifting to others
Financial Stress – involved in planning & gifting to others
Mental Stress – involved in planning & gifting to others
Selfishness – involved in planning & gifting to others
Pleasure – of planning, cooking, decorating, & serving during this season
Pressure – to plan, cook, decorate, & serve this season
Contentment – in being with the ones we love
Intense Sorrow – in missing the ones we love
Stress of Travel – to be with the ones we love
Guilt – if everything we do or feel during this season isn’t “Holly Jolly”
More Guilt – if what we are doing to “celebrate Jesus’ birthday” is actually pulling us away from Jesus instead of toward Him
If I’m being honest, these are just a few of the emotions that swirl around my head and heart on a regular basis during Christmas time – “The Most Wonderful Time of Year.” In a mere few seconds I can feel the exact opposite way about the very same thing! Can you?
And when these polar emotions battle it out, if the negative one wins, then I tend to feel ashamed in myself for letting it be that way.
Why can’t Christmas time be like it is portrayed in the books, songs, movies, and commercials?
Why do we pressure ourselves (or allow others to pressure us) to conform to this Americanized version of Christmas?
Before we begin to heap more guilt upon guilt, consider this:
The first Christmas was full of emotions, too.
Enjoyment – of Mary & Joseph being together on a journey
Emotional Stress – caused by going on a journey with Mary in such a delicate condition
Exhaustion – due to traveling in such a delicate condition
Expectations – of what it would be like once they arrived in Jerusalem
Disappointment – because nothing turned out as they had expected
Fond Memories – of past family gatherings
Painful Memories – of missing home and loved ones
Joy – in being recognized and counted as a family unit in the census
Financial Stress – involved in providing for their time in Jerusalem
Mental Stress – involved in figuring out the details of this journey
Selfishness – involved in longing for comfort and home
Pleasure – of remembering the words the Angels spoke unto them
Pressure – encased in the words the Angels spoke unto them
Contentment – in being in this together
Sorrow – in Mary in being far away from familiar help at this time
Guilt – in Joseph not being able to provide better conditions for Mary and the Baby
I imagine that at one point or another, emotions similar to these whirled around the heads and hearts of Mary and Joseph during this Blessed time that we call Christmas.
Like us, they most likely battled loneliness, rejection, uncertainty, grief, and guilt right alongside their joy and pleasure and contentment. But who wants to talk about these negative feelings during Christmas time?
I’ll tell you Who: The very One who was born to these humble parents – Jesus Christ.
Jesus knows and fully understands the emotions that push and pull us during this time of year. He sees what commercialism has done to His Holy Day, and stands ready to help us navigate each and every feeling. But in the same way that gifts with our names on them aren’t really ours until we accept them, Jesus’ offer to lead us through the days to come won’t affect us unless we accept it.
“Nothing is too difficult for God” Jeremiah 32:17 tells us. This passage goes on to promise that “The great, the Mighty God, the Lord of Hosts is His name – Great [is He] in counsel and mighty in deeds” (vs 18-19).
Over and over in His Word, God calls us to come to Him for help. I looked up some synonyms of the word “help” and found this list of 85 along with brief definitions. As you read a few of the synonyms below, slowly soak in these dimensions of “help” and think about them in light of Jesus:
Accommodate , Advance, Advise, Aid, Alleviate, Assist, Attend, Back, Bail out, Be of use, Befriend, Benefit, Bolster, Boost, Buck up, Care for, Champion, Cheer, Comfort, Counsel, Deliver, Ease, Embolden, Encourage, Favor, Go to bat for, Guide, Hearten, Intercede, Launch, Lend a hand, Mentor, Minister to, Nurture, Open doors, Prop up, Reinforce, Relieve, Remedy, Rescue, Restore, Revive, Root for, Save, Stick up for, Stimulate, Support, Sustain, Take under one’s wing, Treat, Uphold, Work for…
Dear friend, do you need help in navigating a bevy of conflicting emotions during this holiday season? If so, all you have to do is to ask. The Lord understands the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Heb. 4:12-13). He knows that we are flesh (Psalm 78:39) and will lead us as a Gentle Shepherd through the highs and lows of life on this earth (Psalm 23).
And weary one, Jesus understands drained and exhausted too, and invites us to come to Him and let Him carry our loads (Matthew 11:28-30).
After all, that’s really what Christmas is about. The celebration of Jesus, God Himself in the form of the Promised Savior and Deliverer, coming to earth, taking on a body of flesh, trading with us our sin and sorrows, and paying our very penalty of death so that we can fully live, both now and forever! (John 10:10)
From this Gift of Jesus stems the traditions that we have come to know as Christmas. When we let the activities and expectations be wrapped by the Help of Our Savior, we will discover a deep abiding joy… because that’s the Supernatural result of focusing our heads and hearts on Jesus.
Are your emotions getting the best of you during this holiday season?
If so, may I share an idea that worked for me when I began to feel overwhelmed?
Honestly list the emotions you are experiencing, the good and bad, happy and sad – and why you think you are feeling these ways. Then give the whole list to Jesus. Ask Him to show you His perspective on your current circumstances. He will begin to open your eyes to see His presence, gifts and blessings in each one. Then write down what the Lord shows you, and ask for His Strength to help you praise Him in the midst of it all.
This isn’t a guarantee that you will be happy, but a promise that the Joy of the Lord can override every other emotion contending for central focus.
Christmas time sure is a bag full of mixed emotions. But the Gift offered to us through Jesus is a gazillion bags overflowing with JOY. It would be the wisest choice of a lifetime to receive it, unwrap it, and embrace the Savior to His fullest. Oh how I pray that’s exactly what you and I will do as we embrace Jesus this Christmas season!