My friend, Jill Richardson, is back to share some wise words about peace during holidays. As we crank up the Jingle Bells and light the cinnamon candles, let’s take just a minute to measure our holiday stress. If it feels like the holidays are all about stress, this is for you!
We feel a lot of pressure to measure up. This is true anytime, but holidays bring out the best and the worst of it. Isn’t it odd how a time of year that is supposed to angelically sing “Peace on earth” too often fiendishly shouts—“You’re not good enough! You’ll never get it right!”?
Cookie parties. church program rehearsals, school concerts, dinner parties, juggling relatives, baking, shopping . . .
God, if you love me at all, no snow days. Kids at home when I have to get 35 things done today? I. Couldn’t. Even.
Peace on earth seems like something you last got when you had an epidural.
I get it. I moved from Minneapolis to the western suburbs of Chicago when I had three kids five and under. Let’s just say our family is unique. And let’s also just say that the area we live in is . . . not. Here they prefer families that are cookie cutter. No out of the box thinking or behavior. Children are supposed to be clean and shiny little replicas of Angelina Jolie’s kids, except way more conservative.
They were also supposed to be homeschooled and wear Nordstroms’ dresses to the Sunday school program, whereas mine wore a Goodwill find that she hadn’t quite mastered buttoning up.
We had mismatched dishes, furniture that could best be described as early garage sale, and a small townhouse on the wrong side of the tracks. Which meant, practically right on the tracks — busy (and noisy) Chicago railroad tracks. We dealt with issues of ADD, Tourette Syndrome, and oversized, outsourced drama (that last was mine). It was a wild circus to transplant into Stars Hollow, people.
I seriously missed Minnesota nice. (“Minnesota nice” is a real thing. And it’s good.) Especially around the holidays, when it seemed people (lovely church people as well as neighborhood people) had a myriad of creative excuses for not coming to our home. And let’s face it, I had plenty of my own excuses for not wanting to invite people to our four-foot-square living room.
Friends, if you think stress is what the holidays are all about you’re doing it wrong.
This is what I had to figure out in those days when we had no money, no space, and no friends. Hospitality, and holidays, are not the exclusive province of people with big houses and big budgets. They are the specialty of people who know what hospitality really means. Like Charlie Brown seeking the meaning of Christmas, we need to step out of the self-imposed spotlight and ask, “Is this what it’s really all about?”
The answer is no. No. It is definitely not.
In the small ebook, All Stressed Up and No Place to Go, from which this is an excerpt, there are lots of helpful ideas for de-stressing the holidays. I like to spend a lot of time being practical. And, I hope you noticed, having fun while doing it. I talk about the expectations and comparison traps, evading holiday perfectionism, and managing to get anything done with small ones at your feet (and elbows, and knees, and …you know). There are lists of fair trade holiday shopping sites and charities that deserve our holiday support.
But today, let’s skip to the end. How do we prepare our spirits for the holidays, before we worry about our schedules and bank accounts?
We do it by fist being hospitable to our Lord.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.
She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped Him snugly in strips
of cloth and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn. (Luke 2:6-7)
A busy heart has no room for Jesus. A frenzied, stressed individual cannot stop long enough to breathe in the holy night air, to hear the angels, or to welcome the crying Baby in the manger.
A person distracted with the non-essentials of the Christmas season has no room for the One essential.
Is there room at your inn? Here’s the surprise: taking time to welcome Jesus into your holiday heart relieves your stress like no Xanax you ever hear of.
Talking to Him redirects your energies when you’re feeling torn in too many directions. Taking time out for thankfulness re-centers you on what’s important. A quiet moment to listen, with no other agenda, gives us that peace we crave that only comes from knowing whose we are and why we’re doing what we’re doing. Opening our Bibles assures us that we are loved deeply and completely, regardless of the burned cookies or the decorations with doggie teeth marks.
Christmas is about the God who was so hospitable He saw a deep need and came here to fill it. He left behind perfection and entered our imperfect world. He welcomed us into His world, despite our imperfections large and small.
Jesus was born in a dirty stable, to poor parents, with smelly shepherds. Why? Because the message of Christmas is the ultimate hospitality—come as you are. I will help you become what you were created to be.
This post is an excerpt from Jill’s FREE ebook, All Stressed up and No Place to Go: Being Hospitable During the Holidays without Being a Hot Mess. Get your copy here.
Jill is a writer and speaker of topics that start with grace, courage, hope, and restoration. Also a firm believer in the power of Earl Grey, author of five books, and sort-of empty nester. She has an unnatural love for Middle-earth, chocolate marzipan, old musicals, and fish tacos. She co-pastors a church near Chicago, IL and has three grown daughters.