By Erica Wiggenhorn, Crosswalk.com
What if this Advent season, instead of holiday angst, you truly found peace?
I don’t know about you, but the holidays often stir up discontent within me. I become overwhelmed with the busyness of this season and burdened trying to meet everyone’s expectations. Nothing feels peaceful about it at all.
I imagine the people of Israel felt little peace as they awaited their Messiah’s arrival. Zechariah’s prophecy regarding this Messiah, spoken after four hundred years of silence, tells of Messiah’s work: to guide our feet to the path of peace. Jesus, our Prince of Peace, insists our hearts were meant for contentment. His arrival put us on the right path.
I have found that these five steps, each one creating an acronym for peace, help me reclaim my holiday joy and journey through Advent more peacefully.
P is for Posture your Heart
We often put pressure on ourselves to create the perfect Christmas and when it feels unlikely or downright impossible, our heart grows anxious, cynical, or overwhelmed. But if we posture our heart in humility, we can focus on the true meaning of Christmas–worshipping the Savior rather than setting the stage for a Hallmark movie. My heart and mind often decide upon a certain script regarding how I want the season to unfold. I forget Christmas is not about me making everyone happy, it is about the Savior coming to make us whole. Let’s allow Jesus to direct our steps rather than a to-do list to direct our attitude.
E is for Embrace Unmet Expectations
What do I want for Christmas? A perfectly cooked meal arranged beautifully on the dining room table, family members gushing over their gifts, everyone healthy and happy, with no one fighting or getting hurt feelings. Let’s face it. Not even Santa can make this wish list come true! The rolls will burn. I’ll buy the wrong color or size. Someone will get sick and we’ll have to decide if the rest of us should still gather without them. And somebody will say something to upset someone else. But none of those things stop the Prince of Peace from ruling and reigning. They don’t diminish the miracle of Christmas. They simply dash some expectations.
But if we take a deep breath and focus on the fact that Christmas is the catalyst of God’s plan to reconcile sinners, we find that giving grace toward the undeserving sounds a whole lot like the Christmas story in the Bible.
A is for Accept Misunderstandings
Would it help to know that the stress you feel during the holidays, your family members probably feel too, albeit for different reasons? Maybe it’s shame from their behavior during previous Christmases or anger at themselves for an inability to provide how they would like. Maybe it’s a heart of unforgiveness due to a past family hurt that never reconciled. Maybe it’s a critical spirit toward someone at the table who historically stirs up strife. Every family member comes bearing gifts and baggage– so what will be said will not always be heard. And things will be heard that were never, in fact, said. Cue the misunderstandings.
Accept the fact that miscommunication will occur and instead of allowing it to trigger unhealthy emotions and assign motives based upon assumption, simply take a deep breath and go back and posture your heart under the rule of the Prince of Peace yet again.
C is for Cast your Cares
I’m an external processor, which means I like to talk things out. So, when the unmet expectations unravel or the missiles of miscommunication begin to misfire, my default is to find a fellow family member with whom to talk through it. But this creates gossip in my family and forces people to take sides. And most likely, no single person in your family holds the power to redirect decades of family drama. But God does. And He invites us to cast our anxieties upon Him, because He cares for us (See 1 Peter 5:7).
Take all of your anger, frustration, and disappointment to God. He is the only One powerful enough to actually fix it and compassionate enough to heal your hurting heart.
E is for Elevate Christ
The Christmas story is full of misunderstandings and unmet expectations. The King of the World was born in a feeding trough. The chosen couple to rear royalty were obscure northern villagers far from the seat of power in Jerusalem. The announcement of Jesus’ birth came not to prophets, priests, or kings, but instead to lowly shepherds. Yet the angels heralded the moment of Christ’s birth as “good news of great joy.” And this same heavenly host sang, “On earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” When we elevate Christ and focus on His arrival and the purpose of His coming, we realize the glory of Christmas will forever far outweigh our feeble attempts to create a perfect family moment.
Practically speaking, maybe invest in a new advent devotional. Read one chapter of Luke for the first twenty–four days in December, ending on Christmas Eve. Download a new Christmas playlist. Our family loves to read Cosmic Christmas each year by Max Lucado. Instead of spending time focusing on presents, food, and decorations, refocus your heart and mind to remember Christmas is the Presence of the Divine dwelling among humanity to save us.
Peace on Earth
The Advent season sparks peace. Peace with God. Peace among men. Peace within ourselves. All of the busyness of the season, the endless expectations of others and those we put upon ourselves, along with the angst we feel, do not detract from the peace of the season. They merely distract us from the true meaning. Instead of scrolling through social media and focusing on all of the things our holiday is not, let’s take a pause. Let’s revisit our holiday expectations and revive our soul by focusing on the Prince of Peace. God, clothed in human flesh, come to save the world.
Still struggling to find contentment this holiday season? Join me for the Meant for Contentment Advent Challenge.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Deagreez
Erica Wiggenhorn is a Bible teacher and author of Unexplainable Jesus: Rediscovering the God You Thought You Knew from Moody Publishers. She loves to open the Word and invite God to move. You can connect with her at www.EricaWiggenhorn.com.