THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING, THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING!!!
The story of Paul Revere and his midnight ride is sketched into our historical consciousness as Americans. On the night of April 18th, 1975, a battalion of over 900 British Red Coat soldiers were marching on the little colony of Concord to apprehend our country’s forefathers, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Paul Revere, a 40-year old father of seven, rode through the night at great risk to his own safety to warn the fledgling Americans of the impending attack crying out “the Red Coats are coming, the Red Coats are coming!”
The holiday season may not seem like such an imminent threat to our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness like a battalion of British soldiers on the New England shore was, but it some ways it may be worse…
In a 2017 study by the American Psychological Association showed:
- “While the majority of people in the survey reported feelings of happiness, love, and high spirits over the holidays, those emotions were often accompanied by feelings of fatigue, stress, irritability, bloating, and sadness.
- Thirty-eight percent of people surveyed said their stress level increased during the holiday season. Participants listed the top stressors: lack of time, lack of money, commercialism, the pressures of gift-giving, and family gatherings.
- Surprisingly,56 percent of respondentsreported they experienced the most amount of stress at work. 29 percentexperienced greater amounts of stress at home.
In another poll of 1,000 adults, 53% experience extreme financial stress during the holidays. In a survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness “Approximately 755 of overall respondents reported that the holidays contribute to feeling sad or dissatisfied and 68% financially strained. 66% have experienced have loneliness, 63% too much pressure and 57% unrealistic expectations. 55% found themselves remembering happier times in the past contrasting with the present, while 50% were unable to be with loved ones.” A woman diagnosed with depression put the difficulty of the holiday season this way. “The holiday season beams a spotlight on everything that is difficult about living with depression. The pressure to be joyful and social is tenfold.”
I went through Hobby Lobby this past week looking for any leftover Halloween decorations (my favorite day of the year) and instead of grinning Jack-O-Lanterns and dancing skeletons I was accosted by Christmas trees, elves, and candy canes! I wasn’t ready for that yet, I’m still not ready. I think I had a mini-panic attack just thinking about everything that was coming with the holiday season. The Holidays are Coming!!!
There are some things about the holidays that we just can’t change, especially missing the people we love. Often, the people we love are in another part of the country (or world) and we just can’t get to them during the holidays. But, for all of us, many of the people we love are with Jesus in their heavenly rest and we can’t see or touch them during the holidays. There are some other things we can’t change either. Like we can’t change how other people will react during the Holidays because their own stress and sadness gets to them as well and so many times it comes out in ways that are hurtful. But what we can change, or at the very least strive to manage better, are our own reactions and expectations for the Holiday Season.
- If you are grieving, allow yourself to grieve-
Feelings of grief are completely normal during the Holiday season, it’s okay, we’re allowed to miss the people we love. But please remember as Christians that even as we grieve, we grieve with hope. “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope”(I Thessalonians 4:13). Our hope comes from knowing our loved ones in Christ are with the Lord and because we are with the Lord in faith, not only are we never far from each other but we will be reunited one day.
- If you are stressed, allow yourself to change expectations-
Our expectations during the Holidays can get us. We don’t always realize it, but we have an idealized version of how things ought to be, of how people ought to act, and how our holidays ought to look. The reality is that there is no ought to be during the holidays, these are just are own expectations, which may honestly be unrealistic. Think of the first Christmas holiday. “She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them”(Luke 2:7). If that was what the first Christmas holiday looked like we can exchange all of our expectations for some hay and swaddling cloths and have a great Christmas!
- If you are lonely, allow yourself to be loved-
Isolation and loneliness are some of the top causes of hurt during the holidays, but we don’t have to be alone. Sometimes all we want to do is hide out and that’s okay for a little bit, but it quickly can become self-defeating and harmful. You do have people who love you, you have a Church family that cares, and you have a Lord who loves you forever no matter what. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”(John 3:16).
- If you forget what the holidays are about, allow yourself a Holy-Day instead-
It always helps me to remember what the word holiday actually means. Our culture has taken the word and twisted it to mean a vacation or simply a special day, but the word holiday originally meant holy day, from the old English halig-dæg. A holiday is something that gets all caught up with stuff that ultimately doesn’t matter like: gifts, tinsel, and lights. A holy-day is worship, focusing on receiving the love of Jesus, loving each other, and loving Jesus back. If you’re holidays are getting to be too much this season, have a holy-day instead. “This is what the Lord commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord.” (Exodus 16:23).
Blessed Holy-Day Season