(Photo: CJ Rapp)
The Christmas season is a time filled with family, friends, and traditions. It is also a time when, if not careful, we can get all wrapped up in the wrong things. Instead of experiencing peace on earth and goodwill toward men our plans and preparations for the "perfect family Christmas" wrap us up in knots.
A great exercise to keep your peace is to practice self-awareness. Stop and check in with yourself. Are you feeling anxious, stressed, frustrated, or disappointed? Are you experiencing peace or do you feel like you are wrapped up tighter than the package you sent to Aunt Martha? Next, ask why? What am I thinking about that is stirring my emotions? Is it true? Or is my imagination running away with me? Finally, redirect your thoughts. Peace is knowing that no matter what I'm okay because Jesus is Lord over everything. Peaceful people habitually surrender their thoughts and emotions to the Prince of Peace.
So what can we do to remain peaceful this Christmas?
Don't get wrapped up in the details.
I'm from the south where food is the main ingredient to a successful family Christmas. I've continued the long held tradition of making southern cornbread dressing since my grandparents passed. In my house, "It ain't Christmas if there ain't dressin'!" Preparing and cooking it is a family project that takes two days. This Christmas we are traveling on "dressing" days. I am trying not to stress which admittedly is difficult. Instead of thinking about what isn't on the table I am focusing on who is at the table. Being together is what matters most. Is it "perfect"? No; but maybe doing less will allow me to experience more peace and enjoy my family more. Take a look at all your preparations. What are you all wrapped up in? Is there one detail, you could do without? Will the world fall apart if you don't do it? Will your family love you less; or will you all enjoy each other more?
Don't get wrapped up in who will be there.
People always seem to be the biggest obstacle to peace. This time of year, I counsel more and more women anxiously awaiting a loved one's visit. Years of misunderstandings, hurtful words, backbiting, distance and unforgiveness linger in the air like the smell of baking Christmas cookies. Instead of being all wrapped up in the offenses of the past, it is possible to choose to forgive and love anyway. There is something incredibly empowering about choosing to forgive an offense and move on. The gift of peace at Christmas is wrapped in grace. Grace is God acting through us to accomplish what we can't do on our own. When you cannot find the strength to forgive, God acting in you can if you let him. When you are tempted to pick the offense back up, grace is the ability to move on because his mercies are new every morning. Don't give the past power over you. Don't let yourself get wrapped up the drama. Instead rise above it. Choose to forgive, several times a day if you have to, and allow his grace to empower you to move on.
Don't get wrapped up in who isn't there!
I know many of you will have an empty chair at the table this Christmas. Perhaps your loved one is celebrating Christmas with Jesus this year. Maybe people are just busy, angry, lost in their addiction or unwilling to let go of an offense. Don't get so wrapped up in who isn't there that you forget who is there. Wrap yourself up in Jesus by keeping him in the forefront of your mind. Allow his presence to be the filter for your emotions by sharing your thoughts with him. Remember thoughts stir emotions. His presence is peace. Jesus promises perfect peace to those who minds are set upon him. (Is. 26:3)
Don't get wrapped up in the "where."
Hosting Christmas at your house is a lot of work. Shopping and cooking are big jobs. But so is cleaning! The bathrooms need to be spotless, the carpets cleaned, shelves dust free, floors swept and mopped, and maybe fresh paint for you over achievers. We want people to be comfortable and impressed so the house has to be perfect. We take our hostess responsibilities seriously! But, don't be a Darla do it All! Ask for help. Family and friends are often ready and willing to help if we'll let them. Allowing others to serve with you affirms their value. It is a great way to cultivate relationships while keeping you humble all at the same time. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but security and strength. Wise women know their limits and ask for help.
Do get wrapped up in the reason for the season!
This year determine to slow down and enjoy every minute of the Christmas season. Linger longer in conversations, laugh a lot, celebrate who is there, and remember those who aren't. Hug often and savor the taste of a meal shared with family. In doing so, you will keep the love, joy, and the peace of the season in your heart and home. Most of all take time each day to thank Jesus for the gifts he has given to you. Gratitude centers and refocuses us. When our thoughts are set on Jesus and his goodness toward us we experience peace.
CJ Rapp is the founder of Unfading Beauty Ministries, national speaker and a women's issues expert. She has authored several books including "I AM Says, 'You Are…'" which guides women to discover their true identity as a beloved child of God.