Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by Juliana Gordon. Welcome, Juliana! Readers, I hope if you’re feeling a funk this year, this devotional can be an encouragement!
Have you ever been in a shop that sells Christmas decorations year-round? Or heard of households that left up a tree – on purpose – for most of the year? I know people like that, who live for December! They have boxes of decorations, special Christmas dishes, and even an assortment of holiday sweaters to wear throughout the season. They cannot get enough of the festive music, Christmas traditions, and holiday movies.
I used to be like that. Then 20 years or so of trying to have perfect Christmases made me resentful of the holiday season. I was chasing that extraordinary Christmas experience which you see in the Hallmark movies, the Christmas episode of your favorite TV show, and on Instagram. I wanted it for myself, my family, and the ministry events I helped plan. In the meantime, I was getting tired, discouraged, and at least a little resentful. And the focus of the Christmas season – Jesus’ birth – was somewhat pushed off to the side, even as I tried to add it to my to-do list: “Remember that Jesus is ‘the reason for the season!’”
Reflecting on how I have felt at Christmas, I am reminded of Mary and Martha from the Bible. Luke 10:40-42 NASB says,
“But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
I do often take the Martha role in life, but it is most true at Christmas. In the past few years, I have asked God to help me with this, and He has. These principles have helped.
1. Lower expectations. This is helpful all year around, but especially at Christmas. The first Christmas was pure in its worship of Jesus. But the years have changed the celebrations so much. Presents, parties, and pictures are all nice, but they aren’t the point of Christmas. First lower expectations in your heart, then talk to others in your family about how you are feeling. Try not to let it devolve into “You never help me!” but instead, “I feel overwhelmed at Christmas. What can we do as a family to keep our most important traditions and not worry about the rest? Would you be willing to take over this part of Christmas?” (and then you have to let them do it, even if they do it “wrong”.) Doing this can make room to focus on Christ instead of your to-do list.
2. Show mercy and compassion to others. Don’t you think that some people are feeling the same as you? Or maybe they feel overwhelmed year around, and any idea of adding even one more thing, one more expense, is too much. Be generous with your prayers, kind words, and thoughtful actions.
3. Be thankful. One tradition I do most years is adding pictures and journaling to a special Christmas photo album. One year that was particularly challenging, I made my theme “Finding Joy”, and wrote down one blessing I could be thankful for each day. I recently reviewed the entries from that year. It was clear I was sad that year, and I can’t even remember why. But I have 25 reasons I was thankful during that month. It helped me through that difficult year, and encourages me now.
While Christmas might still be a harried and busy time for you, these steps can help you make room for trusting Jesus for the Christmas He wants you to have.
Juliana Gordon is a pastor’s wife in Southern California. She served as an office manager in a warm and loving church for over 20 years. Her passions include writing, praying for her family, and advocating for persecuted Christians. You can find her at julianagordon.com or on Instagram at @julianagordonwriter.