Christmas is the best time of year….until it becomes the worst. Sure, there are many aspects of the holiday season that are great, but there are also more than a few reasons Christmas is the most stressful time of the year. For some, the stress comes from managing a crazy, jam-packed schedule. For others, it is buying the “perfect” gifts for your favorite people or maybe having to deal with less-than-functional family dynamics. And, we are supposed to do all that we do with grins on our faces so that we are not accused of being the Grinch.
Look, I love the season for Advent and Christmas, but the reality is that sometimes, it just feels overwhelming. If I am not careful, I get in such a hurry to get everything done that I let the Grinch of stress and anxiety steal Christmas from me. If not for some of the people in this church, it would have happened to me this year.
Tuesday of this past week, the Grinch almost won. I was heading back to the church to teach the last night of my Advent study. Driving the Jeep and listening to Christmas music, I hit something in the middle of the road. I won’t go into all the details, but I eventually discovered that a large piece of rebar had lodged itself in/around the rear axle (see pictures).
I was stranded on the side of the road with some 30 people waiting for me to teach about the Prince of Peace. Plus, I was worried about how much the repairs would cost. Oh yeah, did I mention that I was working on the sermon about stress and the Christmas season? As you can imagine, my anxiety and stress levels were on the rise!
When I finally got to the church, Richard was telling an amazing story about Advent and keeping the focus on what was most important. The people who were waiting? Because they were filled with grace and peace, I felt the anxiety and stress begin to fade away. Add to that the generosity of the Clines who drove me to the Morans who loaned me a car, the stress faded away even more. Then there was M’Liss who had us both laughing on the phone as I was driving home! Was I still concerned? Of course. But when I walked into the house, Jill did not have to deal with the Grinch!
Maybe this is the secret to handling stress during a season sometimes filled with it. Breathe in the grace and peace of people who love you. Breathe in the grace and peace of the community that surrounds you. Then the words of Paul can fill your soul, “…peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7).