The holiday season is upon us! I unashamedly call it Christmas. No, not in some attempt to stick it to the culture, but as a sincere sense of hope and meaning. While the holiday has been hijacked by a manic pace of busyness and consumerism, the core of it all remains; a deep sense of hope with the promise of a gift. A gift for all humankind!
But for many folks, Christmas is a very difficult season. For a number friends, Christmas is a reminder of loved ones who are not with us anymore. For some, the pace of Christmas is so overwhelming, it is rife with anxiety and despair. Some may find Christmas very lonely and others feel great anxiety around the expense of Christmas gifts, requests from our favorite charities for support and the increased social activities.
So how can we navigate the season and keep ourselves anchored and rooted in the hope and peace of Christmas?
Here are a few quick suggestions.
The pace and excitement around Christmas can cause a significant shift in your life balance. Be aware of what's happening and plan accordingly.
- Booze aka Holiday Cheer - With all the socializing during the season, many folks find that there is an opportunity for increased alcohol consumption. If you choose to drink, drink responsibly. This means set limits on what you will consume not just because you may be driving, but many a career 'faux pas' have occurred during company Christmas parties. Alcohol inhibits ones ability to make wise decisions and maintain healthy boundaries.
- Finances - The ads started back in November greasing us up for the consumeristic feeding-frenzy of the holiday. Set a budget and stick to it. While it's great to show off by giving the big ticket items, you can avoid a post-Christmas financial hangover by spending within your means. In a society where many folks have more than they need, what makes the most sense are thoughtful gifts not expensive ones.
- Time with others- For those of us who are social butterflies, it is a good idea to ensure you are not totally overbooked and frantic from one event to the next. A string of late nights and driven social schedule can leave us exhausted and actually reduce our enjoyment of the events and the people we are with.
- For those of us who tend to isolate ourselves during the holidays - try accepting a couple of holiday invitations. It is good to connect with folks during the holidays and have a few laughs or a least some human contact. This is a good way to help avoid the seasonal blues. You don't have to stay long but just getting out and connecting with others in a healthy way can brighten up of the holiday season.
- Family - Arrggh! This can be a challenge and a half - children, our spouse, our parents and in-laws all bring unique pressures to the season. This is where healthy relational boundaries are key. It is easy to to become driven by the demands of extended family over the holidays. Look for ways to connect in ways that work for you and your family while being as fair as you can to extended family - this may take some planning and compromise on every one's part.
- Children - helping your children understand the bigger message of Christmas can be a very rich and special gift you give to them. Helping them to step out of the rat-race of consumerism and to see the beauty and wonder of the season will add a special aspect to your Christmas. You will also be surprised as your children grow to understand the world as bigger than themselves. Maybe help them to find a way that they can give using their own resources - a donation to the local food bank, toys for tots - a Shoe Box for children around the world or even taking some of their personal money to put in the Salvation Army's Christmas Kettle. Helping your children to understand the value of giving gifts will be far more impacting than the latest game system.
What we have found meaning is rooted in the Christmas story, the gift of God Himself to humankind in the person of Jesus. A gift of love, reconciliation, peace and hope for the entire world. Especially in a global climate that continues to be uncertain and unfriendly in many ways, we have found as a family and as individuals that a relationship with God gives us a rootedness and a sense of peace even in the trying times. It postures us to choose to love others and to try and put others ahead of ourselves. This self-transcendence strangely manifests a deep sense of joy, purpose, and hope.
Our sincere wish and prayer for each of you is a most blessed Christmas that is full of joy, peace and hope as you spend it with other people - as you yourself become the gift.