Okay, it’s now the second week of December and you’re starting to stress out, aren’t you? I can feel the stress coming right through your eyeballs as you read this.
The Christmas season, which officially began the day after Halloween, is now kicking into high gear, and with it comes the inevitable stress of trying to cram ten pounds of Ho-ho-ho into a five-pound stocking. No, make that 50 pounds of Ho-ho-ho. To paraphrase an Andy Williams holiday classic, “It’s the most STRE-ESSFUL time … of the year!”
As Catholics, we have the added stress of trying to incorporate a little of the religious origins of this holy day into our holiday festivities. But things are so hectic, that seems to be practically impossible, doesn’t it?
Nowadays the Christmas season is kind of like being swept away by a raging flood. Every year we tell ourselves that we’re not going to get caught up in all the holiday nonsense, but then the season comes rolling in and even though we try to hold our ground, we eventually lose our balance and get washed downstream in a tumbling and foaming maelstrom of too much food, too much drink, too much shopping, too much driving, too much decorating, too much ugly Christmas sweaters, too much cookie-baking, too much card-mailing, too much wrapping, too much Christmas specials on TV, and too much “Grandma got run over by a reindeer.” It’s just, well, too much.
The more hectic the Christmas season becomes, the less the “reason for the season” is present, both in our lives and in the culture. For example, in response to the threat of frivolous lawsuits a decade or so ago, school choruses stopped singing religious carols during the annual Christmas concert. But now they’re not even allowed to call it a Christmas concert; it’s a WINTER concert. And now they can’t even sing non-religious holiday songs, like Rudolph and Frosty, because apparently the lawyers for various atheist groups noticed that the nativity passages in Luke’s gospel are just teeming with red-nosed reindeer and talking snowmen.
The less Christ is present in Christmas, the more our culture fills the void with stress-inducing holiday season nonsense.
When Jesus was stressed-out and exhausted, He went up to the hills for some peace and quiet and prayer. When we’re about to be swept away by a flood (either real or metaphorical), we too need to head for the hills. We need to make some time for peace and quiet and prayer.
Oh sure, easy to say, but how do we make time when there already isn’t enough time to do all the holiday things everyone expects? Ah ha! Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things, but only one thing is needed (Recognize that line? Someone pretty important said it a long time ago).
The key to finding some peaceful time, which will allow us to keep Christ in Christmas, is to change the expectations. Make it clear to your friends and loved ones that you’re not playing the game this year. Tell them you are refusing to get swept away by the raging current of non-religious folderol that has become such a part of the modern, secular Christmas season.
Now, I’m not advising that you go all Scrooge on everybody. Go ahead and put up a tree, buy some presents, eat a few cookies, play the Bing Crosby CD. But simply make it clear that faith and prayer—you know, keeping Christ in Christmas—are the most important aspects of this season. You just might be surprised at how many of your friends and loved ones want to join you on the quiet and prayerful high ground, away from the flood.