Festive Stress

November 5, 2018

According to recent studies “festive stress” is real and it’s here. New research has revealed that 31 percent of Americans describe the holiday season as “frantic.” Lonely people and those suffering from grief also dread the holiday season more than any other time of year. Watching everyone around them connect to those they love makes their own feelings of emotional isolation even more profound. Many people including believers who struggle with anxiety and depression describe the holiday season as increasing their anxiety levels tenfold.
In the 1965 Charles Schulz animated classic ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’ there is a wonderful scene toward the end when Linus tells Charlie Brown what Christmas is really all about. And Linus does this by reciting Luke 2:8-14. The moment Linus utters the words ‘fear not’ in vs. 10, he drops his trusty blanket, that symbol of security for the anxiety ridden character in so many of the peanuts classics. Believer, what are you hoping for this holiday season? Are you hoping for a better marriage, less debt, peaceful family holiday gatherings, a much-needed Christmas bonus, your prodigal son or daughter to return home, a positive report from your doctor? Or perhaps you are simply hoping to survive another dreaded holiday season and to feel just a little bit better and slightly more optimistic than last year’s holiday season. Those feelings of anxiety and hopelessness are real and all these things I just mentioned are good things that many of us hope and pray for. But what happens when we don’t get that bonus, our son or daughter does not return home, we get a bad report from the doctor or our marriage woes go from bad to worse?
That message given by the angel of the Lord in Luke 2 nearly 2,000 years ago was a message of hope because it was a message about the long-awaited messiah who came to save us from our sins. That’s why the angel said, ‘fear not for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’ And for those unsuspecting shepherds huddled around campfires in the cold hills of Palestine watching their sheep, it was exactly the message they needed to hear. Think about it. The message of hope as foretold by the prophets of old, the greatest news ever told about the God of this universe who would empty himself of all his glory and come to the world in the person of Jesus was announced to poor, unsuspecting shepherds who probably struggled with many of the same things you and I struggle with today.
As we enter the Thanksgiving season all of us have something to be thankful for. But most importantly as believers we have been redeemed through the blood of Christ who ‘according to his great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’ 1 Peter 1:3-4. We really do serve a great God and we really do have so much to be thankful for. As John Piper writes ‘the gospel is the good news that the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of the never-boring, ever-satisfying Christ is ours freely and eternally by faith in the sin-forgiving death and hope-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ’. Believer, cling to the promise of Hebrews 10:23 when the writer says, ‘let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.’