“De-Schlucking Christmas?” No, I have not been learning German; I have a hard enough time keeping my English straight! Actually, I was inspired to write this post after watching a television special featuring a behind-the-scenes look at decorating the White House for Christmas. To be honest, I was disappointed. There were a dizzying amount of lights and decorations everywhere and the trees were so full of ornaments you could hardly see the actual trees. The emphasis was strongly on “family” and “patriotism”—“We are grateful for the sacrifices of our military and their families.” (Don’t get me wrong, we are a retired military family, well aware of the sacrifices such serving entails.) I must say, there was a nice personal touch on the trees: an abundance of stars decorated by children from across America. But the stars had more to do with the Stars and Stripes than remembering the Star of Bethlehem. I realized after the program, that there was no mention of a Babe in a Manger nor the Solitary Star that men of high and low position have been drawn to for over two thousand years. Instead, as the cameras went from room to room and tree to tree, it was all so heavily decorated that it all began to look like what I refer to as “schluck”– a bunch of clutter that has no real meaning. Concluding the program there was no, “Merry Christmas.” Instead, there was something lame like, “Have a great holiday.”
Totally missing was the HOPE in the eternal wonder and majesty of Christ that IS Christmas!
In an odd way, I am grateful to have seen the program because it helped me appreciate why so many people struggle with depression and anxiety at Christmas. Living in a fallen world with real problems and imperfect families, where the pain of death hits hard and the pressures of financial woes are abundant, a schlucky, Christ-less Christmas offers no real substance. Where there is no substance, there is no hope.
With that conviction I decided to “de-schluck” my approach to Christmas, removing the extraneous clutter that get in the way of remembering the HOPE that is in nothing less than Jesus Christ. But where to begin? This is what I did:
- I prayed for direction: Asking the Lord of Christmas for help–praying for wisdom in the process of de-schlucking-helped keep me on the right track.
- I reflected on the direction I received: After praying I realized that to “de-schluck” Christmas had to begin not in getting rid of things (my first thought), but in taking stock of what is going on in my mind and heart. Colossians 3:1-3 set my course: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
- I began to act on that direction: I committed to focusing on the HOPE that is mine in Christ Jesus as I became more intentional in making choices that reflect that HOPE. I made Christ Jesus my priority as I attended Church, served in my community, decorated our home and invited family and friends in to celebrate His Goodness. To help guard against distractions, reading the Scriptures daily became key. (There are books and booklets on Advent that are generally available; some helps online are available for free.)
- I decided to extend the Christmas Season to January 6– Epiphany. This is totally a God-inspired thing. Humanly, my thinking is “keep it short and sweet and be done with it!” But as I have prayed (and remembering past years when I have done this) I know there are benefits to “de-pressurizing” Christmas from being an event, to instead take advantage of the down-time after Christmas Day as a Season to be enjoyed.
- I continue to give thanks to God (the Center of Christmas) for His Perfect Plan . . . for HOPE that is not tied to this imperfect world but to the love and mercy of His Son, the Light of the world.
Since then, I have found that being more intentional in remembering Jesus as my HOPE, I do not feel as stressed about Christmas. A phrase that has been helpful in the process is, “Less is more.” We do not need a lot of “schluck” to make our lives (or Christmas) what God intends, we need the HOPE that is only to be found in His Son, our Lord Jesus. I have found Hebrews 6:19 to be a special encouragement as we navigate through this Season that is all about HOPE in Him:
“We have this HOPE (Christ Jesus) as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
No matter what you may be facing in your life at this moment, hold fast to the love and mercy of Jesus as your anchor of HOPE eternal.
When I told my husband about “de-schlucking” Christmas he asked, “So does that mean “Rudolph the Reindeer” is dead?” My answer may surprise you, but I’ll save it for my next post: “De-Schlucking” Christmas: Focus on JOY!
All to His Glory!