holiday hustle

So…Christmas is coming in 20 days. What I’ve noticed, though, is that as soon as any sign of the holiday season shows up, people react with drudgery. Like someone being woken up at 3am for a midterm exam, or a root canal, or to unplug a toilet. “Aaaaaargggghhhhhh, that time already??? Ajhdhakihsjdk,” we grumble, and then something about hating Christmas carols and fruit cake.

I, for one, love fruit cake. But let’s leave that out of this.

I’m not exempt from this attitude. These past few days I’ve been completely swamped at work because I work at a church, and the weeks leading up to Christmas at a church compare to the weeks leading up to Black Friday at Best Buy. It’s insanity. And to add spice to the spiced cocoa that is church office life at Advent, my church does an outreach program every year where families in need can get help with food or buying gifts for their kids. The holidays are tough enough even when a family makes decent wages, let alone when they can’t make ends meet. This is in addition to the already amazing food assistance program that we have year-round, which on any given month helps hundreds of families with food. So, like I said, insanity.

Naturally, by day two of Advent, I found myself emotionally exhausted from answering phone call after phone call, and signing up family after family, and having three to four families in our tiny office lobby most of the day, most of which always had some rendition of a crying baby or a pungent old man. On the second day of the season leading up to Christmas, I was feeling like every guy at every inn where Joseph and Mary walked up, seeking shelter as she was about to give birth. “There is no more room here,” I wanted to say to every single person who called, every single man, woman and child who walked through our doors. All those families were like Jesus coming to my door, and all I wanted to say to them was, “I’m exhausted. I’m frustrated. I’ve had it with you all. Beat it.”

Ever feel like this during the holiday season?

Scripture talks about how this season is a time of preparation. Stay awake. Prepare the way. Don’t be caught off guard. Be ready. Someone really important is coming.

That made me think. All this time, all that I’ve been thinking about is how I am overworked. I am overwhelmed. I am exhausted. And when I’m not thinking that stuff at work, I’m thinking about how I need to get presents. I need to go shopping. I need to wrap gifts. I need to make the best ham ever so as to convince people that I am awesome at everything. I this, I that.

Well, if this season is all about me, then no wonder I’m stressed out. All that self-importance is like a flame set to the dry wilderness; it has no direction and no purpose. All it knows to do is consume everything in its way. And for two days in Advent, that was what it did to me. It consumed me.

If you feel like you’re going through something similar, maybe what helped me will help you, so take this with a grain of salt: quit making this season about you. Remember what you’re celebrating. Remember who this is all about. Let the season lead up to something you believe in, something that resounds in you. And if you find yourself feeling half-hearted for whatever it is you are celebrating, whether it’s your faith, your family or your friends, this is a good time to ask why, and to learn how you can be set on fire once more. See, there isn’t anything we can do about the insanity of the holiday season. No matter how you play it, anything worth celebrating is also going to be a lot of work. But if it’s worth celebrating, it should be worth the work as well. It all depends on what and who you’re celebrating…and if that what or who is worth it.

As for me, I’m celebrating the coming of my Messiah, the one who changed everything. That’s pretty important, and it’s worth being a little tired at the end of everyday. If being a bit stretched at work or at home is going to make my heart more open, more awake, then the hustle and bustle is in fact a blessing. If being tested and tried again and again is going to make me more patient, more compassionate, more temperate, then I welcome the trials. And if being a little limited by lack of money or means is going to make me more humble, more thoughtful, more sincere, then I will take joy in my limitations. All of these things make me a better person, better able to celebrate with a joyful heart. So that whether it be 20 days or 2 days or 2 hours from now, if Jesus should knock on my heart and ask to come in, I won’t be too busy thinking of myself to realize that it’s him.

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