Posts Tagged ‘seasonal dread’

It’s amazing to realize that “Thanksgiving” is already upon us.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that while the days don’t pass any quicker, the months and years seem to fly by.  This year has moved by so rapidly that I feel as though I’ve missed much of it.  As we come into what ought to be a special season, I can already sense the dread that many people feel during this time of year.  On the surface it all seems bright and shiny, but in recent years I’ve begun to notice how few people really seem to enjoy it.  Though our calendars fill up with “special” activities, I don’t sense much “peace on earth”, “goodwill toward man” or “joy to the world”.  Even within the church, I don’t see a lot of genuine excitement at what should be, for Christians, a time of worship and celebration.

Sadly, we all tend to get caught up in the busyness (e.g. cooking, baking, shopping, holiday parties, traveling, guests, holiday programs…) and miss much of the richness this season has to offer.  While we’ll be the first to proclaim that “Jesus is the reason for the season”, He doesn’t always get a place of prominence in our holiday activities.  So as we launch into yet another holiday season, God put it on my heart to stop long enough to gain some perspective.

I believe that at the root of much of the seasonal angst is unfulfilled expectation; whether that comes in the form of past disappointments or the present dissatisfaction with where we find ourselves.  The inherently nostalgic quality of the season can often stir up more painful memories than warm thoughts.  Those who grew up in dysfunctional homes often come face to face with that dysfunction again, whether it is gathering with their families or intentionally avoiding the pain of such a reunion.  Those who are in the midst of difficult situations often feel more isolated in this time, because presumably everyone else is full of holiday cheer.  Those of limited means struggle, because we’ve all come to believe that Christmas cannot be complete unless it comes with boxes and ribbons.  Many of us wrestle with the notion that if we can’t give our kids what all the other kids have, we’ve somehow failed them.  For others, it can be the uncertainties of a new year that keep them from partaking of the joy set before them.  Ultimately, if we are dreading the holidays, we will almost certainly have a dreadful holiday season.  For those who are in the world, these are simply the seas which toss souls about; but what about the children of God?  Are these the forces that should be shaping our perspective?

If we could look at the reality of where we are today, apart from the disappointments of the past and our fears for the future, we might see that we are a genuinely blessed people.  Regardless of our situations, God has provided for us and continues to sustain us.  We may feel as though we have lack, but if we can see past what we don’t have, we will likely find that we have unnoticed abundance all around us.  The Psalmist spoke of how God wants to teach us of His ways and he beseeches that we not be like the horse or mule, which must be controlled using a bit and bridle.  That picture is one of needing to use pain as a way to get our attention.  I believe that if we will look for the blessings He’s laid aside for today, we will find them; if not, we often must suffer a painful lose before we can understand how truly blessed we were yesterday.

Do we really have to become homeless before we can be thankful for a warm house; even if it isn’t as big or as nice as we’d like.  Do we really have to lose someone we love before we can be thankful for the other people in our lives?  Do we really have to get sick before we can be thankful for our health?  Do we really have to become fugitives or prisoners before we can rejoice in our freedom?  Sadly, most of us tend not to appreciate what we have until we lose it, but this season offers us an opportunity to live differently.

Truthfully, this season was never really meant to be about us anyway.  We’ve unconsciously allowed the world’s thinking to distract us from the central issue, which is Jesus.  While some might regard that as rather obvious, I would guess that most of our holiday attitudes don’t reflect it.  When we talk about the sacrifice that Jesus made, we most often speak of the cross.  Rightfully so, but before His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus sacrificed His deity; not only to become a man, but to become a man of sorrows, who was acquainted with grief.  He sacrificed His perfect fellowship with the Father to come to this earth as a sacrificial lamb.  He sacrificed the glory of heaven for a manger, the rejection of man and a cross.  Make no mistake; the sacrifice Jesus made at Christmas is no less profound than the one He made at Easter.  It was the day that our redemption was set in motion and it certainly warrants a seasons worth of rejoicing.

So as we step into this season, I feel the Lord challenging our motivations and asking what will drive us in this time.  Will it be the hurts and disappointment of seasons past; will it be the struggles that we’re facing today, or maybe our fears about what awaits us down the road.  Maybe it will be the vain hope that if we just find the right combination of songs & gifts & food & people & decorations, we’ll find the joy of the season.  I’d submit that the Lord would like this season to be a season of awe and wonder at the love of our Father in heaven; a season of gratitude for all that He is and all that He’s done for us; a season of renewed relationship with Him and those He’s brought around us.

Who knows what the New Year will bring, but as I stand here today, I am blessed and thankful.  He has given and done more than I ever deserved and more than I ever could have hoped for.  I pray that you and your family will find His joy and have a wonderful holiday season.  God bless you

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