Lest anyone think I needed the spirit of "Bah Humbug!" cast out of me, I've waited to say this. Now that it's December 26, here goes.
Was anybody else but me totally exhausted this season? Do you wonder why you continue year after year on the treadmill of holiday seasonal stress disorder?
A few years ago I read this article, Let's Fast Christmas, by an acquaintance in the ministry, Dr. Carolyn Tennant. I've met and talked with Dr. T several times and highly respect her. When I read this article back in 2008, it resonated with me. In fact, my heart leaped within me to do just as she suggested. I felt as if she had given me a personal altar call.
But I feel powerless to respond. At a loss to do anything different than what I've always done. And four years later I'm still there.
I'm just being real here. Please hear me out before thinking Scrooge might need to be my new nickname.
What would it be like to "fast" Christmas as we currently know it, simplify down to the bare bones, and focus instead on worshipping Christ?
Is this such a crazy idea?
Dr. Tennant is a college professor and perhaps that makes her decision to "fast" Christmas a bit more possible. She can do all that she suggests in the article, and I'm sure she's right that probably no one cared or even noticed when she did it. But, for a pastor or a pastor's wife it is virtually impossible to do as she suggests. At least I think so.
I'm not saying I desire to fast Christmas forever. But this year, I hit a wall. I begged God so many times to just give me strength for one more moment. Time and again I said, "if you just get me through this year Lord...I'll make different choices next year."
But I don't know how.
Our kids still live at home. All the traditions of Christmas are fiercely important to them.
Quite frankly, it's all important to my husband, too.
We pastor a church. Christmas is one of the busiest time of the year for churches and ministers and expectations are there. You can't just say to the church, "hey church, we're fasting Christmas."
Well, I guess you could. But you might show up to church next time and there would be no one there but you. They might all be down at another church that is doing the over-the-top Christmas extravaganza with live camels and donkeys and giving a free baby Jesus bobblehead to everyone on the way out.
This year I spent a lot of time observing what was going on around me. The pressure many people felt to spend money they didn't have and still don't have. The stress of finding "just the right gift" for people who won't even remember what the gift was a few years from now. Last week someone said to me, "I dread Christmas because it's a day for me to fake that I'm happy with the gifts I open that I never asked for or wanted, nor will I use." I found myself thinking, "Is this really what God had in mind when sending His Son, Jesus?"
We are immersed in busyness that quite frankly in many cases has very little to do with the actual meaning of Christmas. And I found myself doing some serious introspection as well as asking, "why"? Is it all really for Jesus, or is it more so for us? Rituals can be so comforting.
I always believe there's hope. There's hope for anyone and anything.
I want to believe there's hope for Christmas without pressure.
I write two advice columns for Tampa newspapers, but right now I need my reader's advice. There are times the one giving advice needs advice. So, teach me. Give me wisdom. I'm all ears. I want 2013 to be different, and I'd love the input of my readers about how that might be possible. There are eleven months to help plan operation simplification.
Have you successfully simplified Christmas? If so, how did it go? What would you do different or better concerning the holidays? How would you go about it?