Everything seems to be heightened this time of year as we prepare for the Christmas holiday – joy and cheer as we experience the Christmas spirit – but also anxiety as we get ready by shopping, wrapping, decorating and spending time with friends and family. For me (and I’m sure for others) my emotions this time of year seem to be on a roller coaster ride. While my intentions are good, as Christmas Day looms closer I feel my anxieties increase, robbing the little bit of joy and peace I may feel at times. For example, Sunday morning in church (just yesterday in fact) I felt a surge of joy as I listened to the readings at Mass and gazed at my grandchildren, attending my church for the first time. Then, hours later, they’re running around and I’m yelling at them to stay out of my kitchen. I wonder if, like the inn keeper in Bethlehem, I too would have said “no more room!”
So how, in the midst of all of the chaos, can we make room in our hearts for what’s most important…joy, peace, love, God? Here are a few thoughts:
- Get Rid of Resentments
This is a prime time of year for getting frustrated, hurt or angry – with the person who butts in front of you, doesn’t say please or thank you, doesn’t like your gift, doesn’t invite you, doesn’t consider your feelings, doesn’t bother to help…the list can go on. Expectations are a ready source of resentments and the holidays, with all of their traditions, gift-giving, family gatherings and such, provide the perfect storm for heightened expectations. Instead of getting hurt, mad or frustrated, I need to remind myself to pray for the person causing me harm and try to take the focus off of me and my feelings and place it on the Lord and His Will for me.
- Be Thankful
Being thankful shouldn’t end at Thanksgiving. But this is also the time of year when money may get tight as we shop ‘til we drop – and if we get bad news of any kind financially, it can really send us over the edge. If you’re in that category (as I have been recently) it’s time to take the focus off of our lack or our problems and be grateful for all that we do have – a warm house, friends and family to celebrate with, enough to share. A heart full of gratitude usually doesn’t have room for anything else.
- Set Priorities
How important is it really that you don’t give or get the exact perfect pair of socks or (fill in the blank)? How important is it that the cookies burned a bit, the tree is leaning ever so slightly, you don’t like your hair and makeup in the Christmas photo? How much more important is it that you have room in your heart to enjoy the fact you have someone to give to (or give to you), someone to bake cookies and decorate a tree for, take pictures with, et cetera? With only fifteen days until Christmas, pat yourself on the back for progress made, focus on necessity (and acceptance!) and let the rest go.
- Pray and Meditate on His Word
To meditate I usually need to read something first, and what better book to read than the Bible this time of year? Of course it’s not a good time to try to read it cover to cover, but maybe to focus on the Christmas story itself – on how Mary and Joseph had to put up with a lot of bad news, chaos and worry – but how they overcame all of it to feel the love and joy of their newborn baby, our Lord and Savior, which made everything else insignificant in comparison.
This year I pray I can get off the roller coaster ride, walk in peace, joy and love, and remember the words of Isaiah and John the Baptist: “Prepare the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert. Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill made low. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed.” (Is 40:3-5)