Wednesday, November 28, 2012

At Christmas, Less May Be More

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, 
as for the Lord rather than for men,...
Colossians 3:23

This verse is often used to urge us to work hard and never settle for less than our best in order to glorify God. It is an appealing verse to perfectionists. This is especially so during the myriads of activities associated with the Christmas season.

For most of us, this is a season of incredible busy-ness. 
  • Christmas trees to decorate
  • Christmas shopping to do
  • Christmas cookies to bake
  • Christmas fudge to make
  • Christmas programs at your kids' school
  • Christmas celebrations at church
  • Christmas get-togethers with the family.
  • Christmas traditions to carry out
All these are things that we somehow feel absolutely HAVE to be done. To a certain extent, these things are a legitimate part of the season. Unless we don't celebrate Christmas at all, or make a choice to leave the secular elements of Christmas out of the celebration, most of these will have a part in the holiday. 

Those of us who deal with a tendency toward perfectionism, however, soon find ourselves swamped with a myriad of self-imposed demands to do each and every thing, event, or activity to a standard of perfection.

After all, this is the birth of our Lord Jesus that we celebrate. This is a time of the year that is supposed to be filled with warmth, laughter, good times with family, and a sense of awe and wonder at the gift God gave us when He sent his Son. 

This is what we want. But far too often, our best intentions fall flat in the face of frazzled nerves and too little time to complete everything on our to do list. 

I believe that, to some extent, we have unconsciously equated the trappings of Christmas with Christmas itself. 

Why does that happen year after year, despite our promises to do better the next time around? More importantly, what can we do about it?

Perhaps we remember our own mothers or grandmothers always making dozens upon dozens of Christmas cookies, and pounds of fudge as part of the holidays. We enjoyed that. We want our children to enjoy the same. Yet when we try to fit that baking / fudge making day into our hectic schedule, it becomes something we simply have to do rather than something we can do with joy.
  • Why not instead decide that we will only make and bake if and when we can do it with a joyful heart. Perhaps our kids would be perfectly content with one type of Christmas confection if it meant a calmer and more peaceful mother. (Besides...with the modern tendency toward expanding waistlines, cutting back on the cookies may not be a bad idea.)
We love our families and want to give gifts that will bring a sparkle to their eyes and a smile to their faces. The trouble is that multiple trips to the mall, not to mention the late-night gift-wrapping session on Christmas Eve leave us frazzled, irritable, and not much fun to be around. 
  •  I am convinced that our families would be quite content with a gift or two each rather than a pile of presents if it meant they could all enjoy each other...not just on Christmas Day, but in the weeks leading up to it.
Those of us involved in ministry probably want to arrange a Christmas celebration that will be memorable, beautiful, and meaningful. We will go to great lengths to do this. We may end up with lavish, exciting events that leave people who attend saying "WOW! That was spectacular!" Unfortunately, that very same event may leave the organizers saying, "I'm ready to drop." Not to mention that for weeks ahead of time, their families have probably been saying, "Where's Dad?" or "Where's Mom?"
  • We want to give our very best to the Lord. That is appropriate. That is admirable. Let's just not lose sight of the fact that our "best" must encompass all of life. If our "best" given to the Christmas program means that we give our "worst" or even almost nothing to our families, I am convinced that God is not truly glorified. Perhaps the most God-glorifying thing we can do is to simplify our celebrations, and focus our efforts on giving ourselves to others.
Perhaps, as we celebrate Christmas this year we should take as our motto that "Less is More". 
  • Less of the rush and more of the peace
  • Less of the trappings and more of ourselves
  • Less of the program and more of the Person
May your celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace be a time truly filled with His love, His joy, and His peace.

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