I was chatting with a couple of friends the other day and between all of us, the holidays were not feeling so holiday-ish.
They were feeling overwhelming and stressful. This wasn’t the Advent Conspiracy kind of less is more, get the right kind of focus overwhelming. None of us were over spenders, none of us were getting caught up in the madness of dashing to the mall, or too many parties, or needing to find a way to keep Jesus at the center of the Holy-day. Advent was being celebrated at church and in each of our homes. The faith aspect was not lost on us nor our children. But still…there was the reality that we just wanted the holidays over.
This included New Years and Epiphany. It just felt like one drawn out time that was supposed to be coordinated like Olympic level synchronized swimming. Everything looks polished and happy, every gathering has just the right placement of people at each table and activities that are adequately interesting balanced with not bowing to consumerism or shallow glittery things.
As we talked through these things one friend said “It’s like all of these holidays were made for intact, functional families.” We all stopped. That was it! What we are sold by the world may be materialism but what we are sold by the church is too often about having that perfect, in tact family. There is no room for illness, death, divorce, hospital visits, separations, fights, siblings not longer there to help, and coordination of estranged members of family. What the holidays brought into sharp relief was not celebration, it was just how dysfunctional all of our lives seemed to be.
It wasn’t that any one thing was so egregious. It was that every event, every Christmas card, every children’t program, or holiday invitation seemed to be compounding the reality that things were just not as peaceful and joyous as they were supposed to be. We know what the holiday is really about. And still, it rings hollow when the very season makes everything seems more stressful and less peaceful. As we looked into one another’s faces, we were all weary.
So I got to thinking. What if we stop pretending? What if we are OK saying out loud that things are less than perfect. Not in celebration of dysfunction or resignation. Rather, in knowing that it it doesn’t define us.
So in a season where we remember God come down to be close to us, may we also draw near. For the New Year, I unabashadly choose Matthew 10:28-29.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.
Weary or not, Christmas still happened. Weary or not, the new year is taking place. Weary or not, we can still have Epiphany where we slow down and see what is truly important.
My dear friend Nick P. has a great quote on his voicemail. It says “Be kind, for we are all fighting a hard battle”.
This has never seemed more true. So be kind, to yourself and others.
Extend grace to yourself if you tend to beat yourself up.
Extend grace to others if you are judgmental and harsh.
Extend grace to your children who make messes and are a mess.
Extend grace to strangers who have more going on than you know.
Extend grace to colleagues whose lives are never as put together as they seem.