The picture of Christmas often painted for us on TV and greeting cards is of happy families exchanging gifts, gathering around bountiful tables of food, and joyfully singing carols together by the Christmas tree.
Well, I don’t know about your family, but Christmas at our house usually doesn’t look like the front of a Hallmark greeting card. This just isn’t our reality, and it’s probably not yours either.
Although God intends for this to be a joy-filled time, we have to outwit some Joy Robbers that threaten to chase away our simple delight in the season:
1. Holiday Stress – Life is constantly changing, isn’t it? Change is usually accompanied by stress, which can be overwhelming during the Christmas season.
Children who once delighted in family celebrations grow into teens who want to be with friends during the holidays. Loved ones who have passed away are desperately missed. Families torn apart by divorce may feel they have nothing to celebrate. Cross-country moves, job losses, financial crises, serious health issues…all of these stresses and more can rob us of our joy.
2. Unrealistic Expectations – It’s so easy to feel crushed under the burden of endless tasks and expectations associated with the season.
Decorating the house, mailing Christmas cards, shopping for the perfect presents, attending holiday festivities, and spending time in the kitchen whipping up goodies for our loved ones…all this pressure caused by the unrealistic expectations of our culture or our loved ones can often rob us of our joy.
3. Unhealthy Guilt – While not all guilt is bad (we should feel guilty when we’ve sinned against God or others), the enemy uses unhealthy guilt to rob us of our joy during the holidays.
There are so many things to feel guilty about at Christmas time: our “To Do” list that never gets done, spending too much money, eating too many Christmas cookies, not spending enough time with loved ones, unhealed issues from our past…if we succumb to all this guilt, there’s no way we can experience the Lord’s joy!
Where is Jesus in the midst of all this? When our Heavenly Father sent His Son into the world to be born in that humble Bethlehem stable, I don’t believe He intended for us to experience overwhelming stress, unrealistic expectations, and false guilt…do you?
Remember: There wouldn’t even be a Christmas if it weren’t for the birth of our Lord and Savior—the greatest Gift of all! On that first Christmas, “a great company of the heavenly host” praised God and sang about “peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:13-14, NIV).
That is the Lord’s will for YOU, dear friend: to experience His peace and joy this Christmas as you outwit those pesky Joy Robbers.
Wrapped in His Loving Arms
Perhaps you don’t have any “warm and fuzzy” feelings associated with Christmas. Maybe you didn’t have loving parents. Or maybe you’ve recently gone through the tragedy of a divorce or have lost a loved one. Perhaps you’re so sick or stressed by financial pressures that you wish Christmas would just go away.
Dear friend, God knows your deepest feelings, fears, and frustrations. He is truly the only One who can heal your pain.
Would you take some time to be alone with the Lord? He’s beckoning you into His presence today, saying, “Be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10).
Tell Him exactly how you’re feeling. Tell Him everything. Get it all out. If you’re mad, go ahead and tell Him why. If you feel like crying, go ahead and cry.
As you sit in His presence, let the warmth of His love saturate your entire being. Ask the Lord to wrap His loving arms around you and fill you with His love, mercy, and comfort. This is what He wants to do, because He cares about every detail of your life. He’s just been waiting for the invitation to heal you of your pain.
Keep in mind that healing is a process. To be fully healed, spend time with the Lord on a regular basis, reading the Word, talking to Him, and soaking in His love. You’ll be amazed at how your heart begins to change as He restores and heals you.
During your time with the Lord, He may reveal your need to forgive someone or to ask Him to forgive you for things you’ve done.
While you and I may still have lots of busy activities this Christmas, we don’t have to let a day go by without stopping and giving reverence to our Lord. This is an absolute necessity when our goal is to maintain His peace in our hearts and homes during the holidays. When we come into His presence, seeking Him and His Kingdom first, everything we need will be added to us (Matthew 6:33).
Let’s you and I agree to bring glory to Jesus Christ all through this holiday season and experience the TRUE reality of Christmas. May this be your most meaningful Christmas ever.
Your friend on the journey,
Barbara Cerullois devoted to authentically sharing God’s love with women. She authors From Barbara’s Heart, where her spiritual insights, heartwarming family stories, and delightful anecdotes encourage readers with God’s faithfulness. Her husband, David, is CEO of Inspiration Ministries.