The run up to Christmas can be a stressful time. The preparations, the presents, the logistics of moving from A to B, can feel more fraught than festive. There are often church services in abundance. People find life hard. Loss, pain, illness, despair. Not to mention the context of spiralling prices and continuing unrest in the wider world.
Many of us hope that Christmas will provide the respite we so desperately feel we need. A few days off work. A chance for some down time. Maybe a nice present to de-stress or distract. But even if that does happen (and, let’s be honest, for many of us, it won’t!) that rest will only be temporary. Surely Christmas-time offers more?
At first glance, the Christmas story isn’t an obvious antidote to stress. A young couple, the woman heavily pregnant, travelling a significant journey in order to comply with the wishes of an occupying force. Physical discomfort would have been the order of the day. Emotional discomfort would have loomed equally as large – I imagine the news there was nowhere to stay but a room with the animals would have raised blood pressures more than a little. What a place to give birth! And then some random shepherds turned up…hardly a relaxing scene.
But, if we dig a little deeper, there is such hope in the story of Christ’s birth.
Christmas reminds us life is broken
Jesus would not have needed to come if this world weren’t fallen. It’s not just the screaming children (or the screaming adults) this season brings that draws attention to brokenness. Jesus’ very arrival reminds us that things are not as they should be. Who we are – our relationship with God and others – is, by nature, fallen and there is pain all around. If we are feeling stressed at Christmas, that’s normal. To a greater or lesser extent, it’s what life before Jesus’ second coming will always be.
But all is not lost.
Christmas reminds us we are not alone
We have a God who is willing to move towards us. So kind is he that he left the glories of heaven to come to earth – to be born in Bethlehem, to grow, to live, to die – all to put things right. To make it possible for our relationship with him to be restored and to provide a welcome into his Kingdom where we can be in community with others who believe. If we are in Christ, we are not alone – not facing any stresses alone – he is with us. God. Immanuel.
Christmas reminds us things are not out of control
Our present-buying might be sliding horribly but the kingdom of God is not. Jesus is our King and our Saviour (as the angels in Luke 2 announced). His rule is firm – his supremacy is good. Life may be desperately hard, but it is not careering off a cliff. The one who knows and reigns, loves his children. He leads wisely – we can just follow him.
Christmas reminds us there is better to come
Jesus wasn’t born for a short time to love us and then leave us be. His incarnate ministry – his life, death and resurrection – made a difference for eternity. Now we can know this life is not all there is. There is better ahead. The gift of eternal life belongs to all who turn to him. That means there is perfection to come. One day, when Jesus returns or calls us home, there will be no more stress – or pain, disease or death (Revelation 21).
Those reminders don’t make for a stress-free Christmas. They don’t take away the searing pain that those of us wrestling with loss, relationship fracture or illness may feel. They don’t guarantee an easy 2023 either. But they do bring hope. Real, lasting hope. Whatever we are facing, Christmas shows us that Jesus is the King who rules, the God who is present, the Saviour who holds our futures in his hands until the day of perfection comes. And that makes hope possible – even on the hardest of days.
Wishing you a hope-filled Christmas, from everyone at Biblical Counselling UK.