My Christmas song of the moment is Andy Williams’s “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” largely because of the presence of the word, ‘mistletoeing’ – as in, “There’ll be much mistletoeing, and hearts will be glowing…” A brilliant lyric, you have to agree – certainly not outshone by my friend Tony’s attempt at improving it, which included the phrase, “up will be throwing.” I think I prefer mistletoeing both linguistically and experientially.
For lots of us, though, the expectation of its being the most wonderful time of the year actually increases our stress levels. When you have such a lot emotionally invested, little things going wrong become major disasters. In Britain this year, there seems to be less concentration on the ‘must have’ toy of the moment, but that’s largely because everyone is too busy being upset by not being able to travel where they want because of the snow. “The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley,” as one of my countrymen wrote a couple of centuries ago.
My tip of the year for reducing Christmas stress is to remember some of Jesus’s advice (yes, the baby in the manger – he said this a few years later):
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal [and where the batteries run out and half the toys are broken by March anyway]. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal [and batteries are not required]. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Why do we spend so much on things which people don’t want, when what we really value are the things which increase our treasure in heaven? Parents, do not teach your children that the extent to which you love them is measured by the size of the present pile; don’t buy lots of things which they will not value, and which will break anyway; try buying one thing and then spend time playing with it all day, laughing together and building memories which no-one can steal.
And how about this?
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear [or about whether someone sent you a card and you didn't send them one, or about whether you will remember to serve the stuffing with the turkey, or about...]. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
I really like the reminder that “your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” God knows what we need, and I find he also knows what we enjoy, so that when I stop stressing about what I can’t do, I enjoy more the things I really value and love. I try to make what I do dependent on what I believe and value, rather than the other way round, so this Christmas Day we are going to:
- Be together as a family. I’m hugely looking forward to son#1 visiting.
- Go to church in the morning to thank God with our church family for the amazing thing he did which we celebrate at this time of year
- Visit my elderly mother-in-law in her home, in time to watch the Queen’s speech with her and raise a glass to Her Majesty
- Ring my mother and other relatives whom we won’t manage to see even after the day (did I mention the snow? I think we won’t get to Scotland as planned next week)
- Come home to a fabulous Christmas meal which I love cooking and don’t find at all stressful (despite previous experiences of dropping the turkey on the floor one year, covering my new Christmas skirt with fat; there’s also often some component of the meal that I forget to serve – but that’s all the more fabulous leftovers for the next day). We may share this with some friends (hospitality is good!)
- And in the middle of it all, there will be some present unwrapping, some reminiscing, some laughter and I hope a family game or two. Maybe even some mistletoeing?
I hope that reflects where my treasure (and my heart) is.
Happy Christmas everyone!!!!!