How to De-Stress Your Christmas Season

Lots of lightsPresents to buy and wrap. Parties to dress for and attend. Baking to be done. Family time to be planned. Travel arrangements to be made. Special services or concerts to attend. Not to mention fulfilling our regular responsibilities—going to work, attending (or teaching) school, preparing meals, cleaning the house, and chauffeuring the kids to a thousand different places.

We adopt perfection as our standard and spend December trying to achieve it. And in the process, we stress out not only ourselves, but everyone around us.

Martha would agree with us. Not Martha Stewart (and even she doesn’t always get everything right), but Martha of Bethany. The one who had a sister named Mary and a brother named Lazarus.

Jesus and His disciples had come to Martha’s house to visit and have dinner. And Martha was going nuts in the kitchen trying to make everything come together just right. To make matters worse, her younger sister Mary wasn’t helping. She was sitting around fellowshipping, while Martha was doing all the work.

So Martha stormed out to the living room. “Jesus!” she said (I’m going to paraphrase here). “Don’t You care that Mary is making me do all the work? Tell her to stop being lazy and help me!”

In response, Jesus said something that for a long time, I didn’t understand. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Wait, what? Doesn’t Jesus care when some people are slacking, leaving others to have to do all the work?

Of course He cares. He never approves of laziness or of shirking one’s responsibilities. Here’s what I think He meant by what He said (allow me to paraphrase again): “Martha, you’re focusing on yourself. That’s why you’re so stressed out. Mary has chosen to focus on Me, and an encounter with Me is of eternal value.”

Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Martha, preparing food is not important,” or, “If you were better at this, you wouldn’t be so stressed.” He was pointing out the fact that her focus was all wrong. If Martha had been doing her work with a focus on Jesus instead of on herself—in other words, if she had been offering her work as worship—then she would have encountered Jesus as surely as Mary did.

This Christmas season, if you find yourself getting stressed, trying slowing down for just a moment and taking a deep breath. Is your focus on Jesus? Are you offering your efforts as worship?

You have a choice. You can either focus on yourself and become frustrated at all the things you have to do, or you can turn your heart toward Jesus and encounter Him in the midst of the hustle and bustle.

You see, Christmas is not about folding napkins in the shape of a swan, or finding that perfect gift.

Christmas is about encountering Jesus.

May we never get so caught up in the trappings of the season that we miss out on intimacy with the One whose birth we celebrate.

Luke 10:41-42—”Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV)

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