The holidays can be one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year. During these days, we add to our already busy, over-scheduled lives: presents to buy, travel arrangements to make, cards to address, parties to attend, gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, gatherings to plan, stockings to stuff and (deep breath) the list goes on. Most people just try to “survive” the holidays. Yet, I believe God wants us to actually “thrive” during the holidays; to grow deeper in our relationship with Him as well as with our family and friends. So how do we do this? How do we “thrive” in the holidays?
1. Prioritize Jesus
Several years ago, we were putting our Nativity Scene out. After everything was set up, we realized that we could not find baby Jesus. Somehow we had everything else, but we had lost Jesus!
The whole reason we celebrate is because of Jesus. After all, it is His birthday. However, most of the time we are so busy with everything else that we simply miss Christ. This year, let’s be sure to prioritize Jesus.
In order to accomplish this, we must carve out time for Jesus: time to worship, pray and read His Word. Set the priority of Advent devotionals with your family or friends. Schedule time to read the Christmas Story. Prioritize church on Sunday mornings and Christmas Eve worship. Make sure you experience Christ this Christmas.
For if we don’t, we find ourselves run down, exhausted from all the “trappings” of the Season. We hang on and try to “survive,” instead of experiencing true joy and rest. If you want to thrive, then prioritize Jesus.
2. Live in Peace
News flash – everything will not be perfect this holiday season. We live in a fallen world. When Adam and Eve sinned, there entered hurt, pain, and even death. God created perfection, and one day perfection will be made complete (Advent calls us to this sense of hope and expectancy). However, until then, there will be difficulties.
At this time of the year, we have this idea that everything will be perfect – family will get along and there will be no disagreements, everyone will love their presents, all my recipes will turn out great, there will be no travel delays, etc.
For to 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 (Isaiah 9:6). When the people heard this, they took a deep breath – Peace! They longed for peace. They had fought battles, had terrible kings, and even worried about possible exile.
Today, we long for peace. We are the most over-medicated society in the history of the world. Why? We try to find peace through other ways instead of through the “Prince of Peace.” We try to find peace through control – “When I get everything done, then I will have peace.” Does this ever happen? Do we ever finish our to-do list? Or, we try to find peace through manipulation – “When everything around me is perfect – family, travel, gifts – then, I will experience peace.” Again, does this ever happen? We try too often to control or manipulate.
But listen to God’s Word, in Colossians 3:15: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
We experience peace not when all our tasks are completed or when our circumstances are perfect; instead, we experience peace when our relationship is right with God. Once I am at peace with Him, then I can be at peace with others. I can “Let go and Let God” work in me and through me for His glory. I can bring peace into my family, my neighborhood and my workplace. I don’t have to demand “my way” because “His way” is better.
Jesus said: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33). One day, Jesus Christ will come again and put an end to the trouble, war, hurt and the pain – the lamb and the lion will lie down together. It will be amazing! But, until then, we are called to live in peace through Christ alone. We are called to bring peace into our homes and our workplaces. Living in peace will help us “thrive” through the holidays.
3. Breathe Deeply
This time of year everything is magnified. When things are good, they are really good! When things are hard, they are really hard! The holidays increase our sensitivity and emotions. For many, this will be the first Christmas without a loved one around the table – a grandparent, friend, parent or even a child. Because of loved one’s passing or due to a broken relationship, this holiday may not be the same. On the other hand, there may be new people around the table because of births, marriages, and even adoptions. This time of the year can really be a roller coaster of emotion.
So, how do we cope through it all? First of all, rest in the fact that God knows our hurt, our pain and even our joy. God cares! He cares what we are going through. He hears our prayers, and He cares. He is with us through it all. We must take a deep breathe, and realize God is Sovereign. He is still on the Throne, and He cares for us. He will bring us through, as we hold on to Him.
Secondly, we must learn to breathe spiritually. Instead of taking deep breathes of panic, worry and fear this time of year because there is so much on us, we can learn to breathe in the Spirit of Christ! Here’s how it works:
- Breathe out: let go of the worry, fear, pain and control.
-Breathe in: God’s Spirit of love, grace, joy and peace.
(Now, repeat multiple times throughout the Season.)
What results is a super-natural sense of God’s overwhelming love and peace. We can know Jesus, the “Prince of Peace,” and actually experience Him this holiday season. With family, friends, in good times or in difficulties, we will “thrive” as His sons and daughters. Peace does not result when everything is finished, but we will be able to live (and breathe) in the peace and love of Christ. When we are at peace with God through Christ, then we will “thrive.”
God has awesome plans for us this holiday Season! God loves to surprise His people, so get ready for God to do “immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine.” Let’s thrive this season and give all the glory to Him in the journey. Blessings!