It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are here with all the decorations, twinkling lights, traditions old and new, special foods to feast on, and visiting with family and friends. Accompanying all these good things are the stresses of keeping up with the traditions, the shopping and cooking for the feasts, and the visits with family you avoid for the rest of the year (just kidding…maybe). Sometimes we build up so much anticipation for these wonderful events that we are let down when they are over or didn’t go quite the way we had planned. In my house, my two daughters will visit and cook all the meals. They are both very good cooks and do not get stressed in the kitchen as I do. When I do happen to cook, I always send them a picture of my many Pinterest fails and we have a good laugh as they ask what the dish was supposed to look like.
We build up the holidays with so much anticipation, so how do we guard ourselves from being let down if the cookies burn, the tree falls over, the dog opens the presents, and other fun holiday events that are apt to happen, and in fact did all happen in my home last year! Anticipation is actually a great motivator. Planning gives us a goal and it is so meaningful and comforting to look forward to the traditions that bring us joy. The Advent season itself reminds us of the hopeful anticipation of those that looked forward to the coming of the long-awaited Messiah so very long ago.
Many people experience loneliness or melancholy during the holidays as they remember large holiday gatherings of the past with special people that are no longer with us or families that may be estranged. One way to avoid feeling down is by keeping our focus on the meaning of the holiday and how we have been redeemed by our Lord and Savior and letting our focus be on how much He has changed and filled our lives. If we focus on gratitude for all that we have, it changes our perspective and helps to find our inner joy.
As a long time preschool teacher, my favorite book to read during the holidays is called “Mortimer’s Christmas Manger” by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. In this story a little mouse comes out of his hole at night to look for crumbs to eat, and one day he sees a beautiful tree with twinkling lights and a little wooden house with tiny statues including a statue of a baby in a wooden bed that looks just the right size for Mortimer. He tugs and lugs all the statues out of the house and gets warm and cozy in the little wooden bed. He does this each night until he comes out one night and hears someone telling a story about a baby born in a stable and placed in a manger who was born to save the world. He realizes that the tiny statue is Jesus, and he lugs and tugs all the statues back into the little house and places Jesus back in the manger where He belongs.
This Christmas may we remember to make room in the manger, and in our hearts, for the baby born to save us all and to bring us peace.
Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
Isaiah 9:7 For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.