It’s December! It’s the month that we spend building up to Christmas. We decorate trees, living rooms and our community buildings. We start planning the gifts that we’ll get people and the food that we’ll eat. The Christmas jumpers come out, the festive music and movies start, the Christmas activities get booked and the carol concerts get added to the calendar. The fun begins!
I love the build up to Christmas and I never used to understand why people complained about it and didn’t embrace it and love it as much as I did. What was there not to love?
The older I get though, the more differently I feel about it. Things that were fun as a child feel tense as an adult and the Christmas overwhelm has set in. Whilst there are all of those things going on that I love, the responsibility to remember and organise them all now falls on me. So much to juggle. So many balls to drop. The mental load of organising and buying and booking and cooking and attending… it’s exhausting.
It is a busy time of year. For everyone. Parents, care givers, children, hosts, employees. There is a weight of pressure that is too heavy to carry for an entire month. It starts small, maybe with how your tree looks compared to everyone else on social media. Your tree is fake but everyone else has a real tree. It begins to escalate. How much do you contribute to the teacher gift or the secret Santa at work? Which meals can you attend and which do you have to send your apologies? How many services or concerts can you squeeze in? The list is endless and I don’t think it’s a pressure that we were ever meant to carry.
I’m afraid this blog post isn’t a helpful list giving you tips like using frozen veg instead of preparing your own to alleviate some pressure. Or to tell you not to worry about any of it because you need to keep Christ in Christmas and it’s not about the gifts and events anyway. This is just a gentle reminder to say that if you feel this way too, it’s ok. You don’t need to carry it alone. You will feel it. You will get overwhelmed. But our call is greater than that feeling and sometimes, in those overwhelming moments, a gentle reminder of the one, who not only gives but who is peace, can help us to keep our feet on the ground, take a breath and despite the chaos, allow ourselves to sink into God’s peace instead of our overwhelm.
We are called to be peace keepers.
The Bible talks a lot about peace and asks us to live peacefully with others. But what is God’s peace and what does it look like at Christmas?
The peace of God is the harmony and calmness of our body, mind and spirit. This sort of peace does not rely on everything being in order. We don’t need to have all our ducks in a row, our presents all wrapped or be living our best lives in order to feel God’s peace. God’s peace is completely beyond our understanding and is not conditional or attached to our own positive experiences or desires. This peace is present, despite our external circumstances. It’s God’s character. It is part of who He is. And it can only come from knowing Him.
For me, it takes a lot to admit that I’m struggling or feeling overwhelmed. I hate admitting it but we all struggle at times and the pressure of Christmas can certainly exacerbate that. With cuts to benefits, rises in the cost of living, global pandemics and mental health crisis’ soaring, this is a world that needs a gentle reminder of God’s peace and it is only through us, followers of Jesus, that people will know and experience it. It takes humility and courage to tell people close to you, that actually you are finding life a bit tough. In the same way, when we are able to act with humility and courage to acknowledge God and seek His peace, we are blessed by receiving it and able to then share it to others around us.
We are called to be peacekeepers.
Being a peacekeeper is hard. Keeping the peace is difficult. It can be hard to build bridges between people or work towards reconciling people with each other and with God. Keeping the peace takes humility and courage and it is what God calls us to do, during this chaotic season and every day. Maybe over Christmas, it looks like allowing peace to become greater than the pressure and the overwhelm. It looks like God’s character. It looks like love. It looks like stopping to listen to the shop assistant or the person who is lonely when you’re in a rush. It looks like letting the kids decorate the tree in a way that you hate. It looks like Christmas dinner being late because you embraced your family throughout the morning. It looks like calling the person that you fell out with. It looks like a social media fast and giving to your local communities. It looks like doing the right thing. It looks like loving the orphans and the widows. It looks like standing up for the disadvantaged. It looks like resolving conflict. It looks like staying close to a God who cares and who gave us everything we need to know about Him and His character. It looks like carving out time to sit in His presence. It looks like humility and courage and love and peace.
I’ll finish with this. Isaiah 9:6. “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
God sent Jesus not so that we could experience overwhelm but so that we could experience peace.
However busy and overwhelming it gets, this blog is your gentle reminder to take a breath and allow peace to become greater.