What are you getting for Christmas this year?
I know that question is usually the other way around, “like what do you want for Christmas?” or “what are you getting someone else for Christmas?” If you were to ask my kids that, the current answers would be: the Millennium Falcon Lego Set, Lava Lamp, a bunch of journals, and a writing set—among other things.
But what are you getting for Christmas? Like my kids, you might have some answers for that, like: you’re going to get a migraine, credit card debt or an empty wallet, a mini-nervous breakdown, stress, anxiety, too little time and too much food.
Just writing that out myself, it seriously make me wonder if Christmas is really worth celebrating at all if those headaches are what we are going to get for Christmas!
Unlike the presents that someone hands you, where you didn’t have any control over what you got in that wrapped box, you actually have some say in what you get for Christmas. A lot of it has to do with what you are putting on the line for this Christmas to be successful.
Let me give you an example. My family really enjoys watching cooking competition shows like Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen, but are latest mini-obsession with food related reality tv is Zumbo’s Just Desserts. Like any other food competition (or any competition really) some of the contestants just seem to put everything into winning the show, including their identity, their self-worth, and value as a human being. They keep saying things like, “if I win this show I’ll prove myself to everyone,” or “I don’t know what I’ll do if I lose,” and “this means everything to me and I have to show my loved ones what I can do.”
Very much, in their mind’s eye, it feels like their world will come to an end if they don’t win and that their value as a person has to be proved somehow by winning a tv competition. The results of the stress that they put upon themselves because of how much their identity and worth is tied in to how they perform is obvious. They have panic attacks, crying, screaming, nervous breakdowns and get mean-spirited, rude, and sarcastic with the competitors and even with the hosts. Zumbo’s Just Deserts seems to try very hard to keep things light and fun but the nervous breakdowns, panic attacks, and attacking their own self-worth is still there.
When we watch the show with the kids, we’ve found that it is actually a really good object lesson for teaching our kids how not to do that to themselves. We’ve actually had some great conversations about how to learn moderation and how their value and self-worth isn’t earned by a competition or other’s opinions of them, but first from God, then from loving themselves, and finally from the people who genuinely love them. In competitions (school, grades, and work too) whether they win or lose, who they are in God will not change, it’s just another learning experience and opportunity for them to grow along the way to their Heavenly Home.
In your mind, have you wrapped up your identity and worth with what a successful holiday looks like for you?
Sometimes this will be having just the right presents, but more importantly just the right reactions from the people receiving the presents to feel like we are a success. But if we don’t get the right reactions, we feel let down, like a failure, like Christmas is kinda ruined.
Or the expectation for the table and the food to be just so, and for the people at the table to react just so as well. If not, you know how it goes.
Or if the decorations just don’t make it up this year, or their not quite how you think they should be, or you are just too tired or busy to pull it all out, then somehow it doesn’t feel like Christmas and we sometimes feel like we’ve let ourselves and other people down.
Or, as we know, suicide, depression, anxiety, and anger related domestic violence, all of it peaks during the Holidays. There is a reason for this and much of it has to do with the expectations we load upon ourselves and others for Christmas.
But, we don’t have to give ourselves any of these things for Christmas and we don’t have to receive any of these things either. Because, who you are and how much you are worth is not tied to ham and eggnog, ribbons and bows, plates and bowls, lights and trees. Your identity and worth is settled firmly in the manger in Bethlehem and in the love of our God who would become a tiny little, helpless babe just for you because of how much God loves you. When you rest yourself firmly in that manger with the baby Jesus, you receive the best gift of all for Christmas— the love of God. Remembering that and letting baby Jesus be your center and hold you together, whether the tree is just right or the presents miss the mark, if the food is burnt or the table is simply amazing, it’s all ok. Really, it is all ok.
All of that is just the Christmas wrapping paper that gets crumpled up and thrown away every year.
It’s who you are in Jesus that counts.