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Gifts from the heart come from a loving spirit. But how do we maintain a loving spirit during the stressful holiday seasons?
Many people hate this time of year, some because memories of departed loved ones are especially poignant, some because of the commercialization of the season, and some because of the extra workload Christmas brings with it. While some of us may not hate Christmas, and some actually love this time of year, it is true many of us are more stressed. Let’s examine six things we can do to help us, even those who love Christmas, enjoy it more.
- Sad memories make this time of year difficult for many. The first thing many of us need to do is to accept death, not bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. Everyone is dying—we just do not know the hour or day. I know it is difficult to accept death, and I’m certainly not trying to minimize the pain we feel when loved ones die. However, as Christians we have hope. In possibly the most beautiful words in the English language, Paul tells us:
Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? I Corinthians 15:54-55
This time of year is a perfect time to reminisce, to remember Christmases past, to honor the memories of those who have gone on to meet their reward. Will tears be shed? Perhaps, but tears are a gift from God. And everything God gives is good.
- Furthermore, this may be the perfect time to drag out those old pictures and share memories with the new and old members of our families. We may just find laughter intermingling with the tears. And taking time to just be with our families can give us a respite from all the hustle and bustle and renew our energy.
- Other people hate this time of the year because of the commercialization. For years I complained bitterly when I saw ads or commercials for Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving. Well, now we’re seeing them before Halloween. Christmas is like the Blob (if you’re as old as I am and remember the movie), sprawling to possibly encompass the entire year. We already have Christmas in July in many stores. Unless we are the business owners or unless a law is passed to prohibit anything Christmas except in the month of December (a great idea, don’t you think?), we must accept things as they are and as they may be in the future. The Serenity Prayer has helped me with this.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen. ~Reinhold Niebuhr
- Of course, we know we can change our own focus. Instead of the take attitude, have a give attitude. Reach out to those in need at this time of year. Open our hearts and pocketbooks to the poor of this world—whether poor in money, or poor in family or friends. We may not be able to change the world, but we are capable of changing self.
- Also, we need to let go of unrealistic expectations. In some distant galaxy far, far away, there may be the “perfect” Christmas, with smiling children eagerly sharing, with a perfectly cooked Christmas dinner, with gifts elegantly wrapped, and each gift just what the other person wanted. I haven’t seen it here on earth. Here we are imperfect people going through trials and tribulations, learning to be more Christlike, yet failing more often than succeeding. We need to change our perspective and see each challenge as a way God is molding us into who he wants us to be. We need to change our perspective and see others as God sees them and not place unrealistic expectations on them.
- And when we fail those challenges, forgive ourselves and others, just as thoroughly as he forgives us. Enjoying the good, forgetting the bad.
Learning to accept death, not being afraid to reminisce about those who have gone on before, to accept the commercialization of Christmas we have no control over, to change ourselves by focusing on those in need, to let go of unrealistic expectations, and to forgive ourselves and others when we fail our goal of a perfect Christmas are six ways to create gifts from the heart and a more peaceful and joyous Christmas.