Christmas Cheer or Stress?

Posted by Karen Soole Karen Soole
So here it is Merry Christmas! Well its nearly here! But do you feel merry? Or do you feel slightly stressed by a list that seems to keep growing of jobs that should be done by December 25th? I have been determined to be relaxed this year telling myself that most of the things that I think are essential can wait or don’t really matter. I am fighting the urge to spring clean the house from top to bottom just because all my extended family are arriving and I want to make a good impression. I have failed to write Christmas cards or our annual letter (which is a relief to my children). I haven’t made a Christmas cake or Christmas puddings and I haven’t bought a Poinsettia because it always dies too quickly. We have got the tree up but only just - it was the last one left in the garden centre. I’ve collected my daughter from uni, the others have nearly finished for the holidays but I’ve bought the presents (still to be wrapped), ordered the turkey and an online delivery from Sainsburys. Everything is under control!

Christmas is only two days but the preparation seems to go on for two months, as do the adverts! The expectations for the day can be huge, and equalled only by the disappointments. But I genuinely enjoy Christmas despite everything although in recent years it has been exhausting. I have got to the stage of life where our house is the gathering point for the rest of our family and my task is to make sure all the generations from young to old have as great a Christmas as possible. In my time I have made everything from cards to puddings but no more. I am not on strike just seeking to have the energy to give to everyone when they are here without fighting tiredness and a lurking. What I also have to fight is my desire to make everything perfect and meet everyone’s expectations because I know I will fail. The pressures come from two sources, the secular and the religious. The secular dreams of Christmas as the most wonderful time of the year, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, children singing, hearts glowing, and it really snowing are heard through tannoys in every shop you enter. The religious proclamations start with the beginning of advent and are reinforced through Christmas services, carol concerts and now blogs and twitter. There is a constant reminder that Christmas is not just a secular holiday but also a celebration of Jesus’ birth. This is of course great yet I have a but…Christmas does not feel like a celebration of Jesus’ birth because it is surrounded by so many other voices including at our family celebrations those who prefer to toast the winter solstice. It can be hard to focus on Jesus on Christmas Day and the pressure to somehow focus on him in an extra special way can create yet another unspoken guilt.

I have found that the opportunities to rejoice again at Jesus birth come before the big day itself. Our family advent readings every morning and carol services. I love carol services especially the final verse of Hark the Herald Angels (I want that carol at my funeral the words are fantastic). I love the chance to share with others before Christmas the importance of Jesus becoming man and this time of year lends itself to sharing the gospel. But the day itself will comprise of a shorten church service (if I’m lucky to get there at all with the timings of everyone’s arrival) and then lots of food, present giving, general mayhem and Doctor Who/Downton Abbey in the evening.

So is Christmas about Jesus? Perhaps yes and no is the best answer to that question. Christians celebrate the fact of Jesus’ birth every day as we walk with him knowing that his life opened up the way for us to have a relationship with God as our Father. I don’t need to get stressed or exhausted trying to have the perfect secular and religious Christmas instead I am rejoicing in Jesus’ birth every day whilst seeking to love my family to the best of my frail ability. If you are finding it all too much, take the pressure off, do what is manageable, keep some energy for the 25th and rejoice in Christ whatever the day!