What jumped into your mind first? Harried holiday shoppers and annoyingly long lines? Endless renditions of Christmas songs on the radio? Overindulging on treats? Office parties and vacation days? Trying to squeeze one more activity into an already bulging schedule?
It seems far too easy these days to let this special time of year devolve into a stressful to-do list. Between gifts to buy and wrap, Christmas decorations, kids’ school performances, church activities, and family gatherings, time vanishes into what feels like a black hole of “doing.” They’re all good things, in their place. So why do they balloon out of control?
I think we have media and technology to thank for a lot of the stress of Christmas. It’s easy to see (and compare) everything everyone else does, from the way they hang lights on their homes to the way their kids decorate Christmas cookies. We’re bombarded with great ideas, more ideas than we can possibly put into practice. The sheer act of sifting through them all to pick the best ones is overwhelming enough. It’s no wonder so many people view the holiday season as a time of stress.
Instead of letting these precious weeks and days zoom past in a flurry of activity, let’s come up with a different ending to that phrase: ‘Tis the season for reflection. My dictionary gives two definitions:
- the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it
- serious thought or consideration
I think we can apply both of these definitions, starting with the more obvious second one. As 2018 slips away, what better time to give serious consideration to what we’ve accomplished this year, what still needs to be done, and our goals for 2019? And not only in the arena of writing, but also in our personal lives. That might mean evaluating your health (physical, emotional, and spiritual), your job, your family commitments, or whatever else strikes you as important in the past year.
In the midst of this busy season, taking time out for reflection might feel like a tall order. Even if you’re only grabbing it in little snippets, like an early morning cup of coffee beside the Christmas tree, a quick walk over your lunch break, or a few minutes of journaling before bed, don’t neglect this time to reflect on your year. Personal growth comes out of these moments.
Now, for the first definition… What, exactly, are we going to throw back or reflect? Hopefully it’s the better feelings of the season, like joy and a giving heart. Or maybe it’s something not so nice, like stress or chaos or inadequacy or depression.
Here’s where I’m going to challenge us to look beyond ourselves entirely, to the real meaning behind Christmas. I live in Michigan, where every day the sun sits a little lower on the horizon and shows its face a few less minutes as we relentlessly move closer to the winter solstice. It is, literally, the darkest time of the year for us, and into that darkness comes the light of Christmas, when we remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…” Isaiah 9:2
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” John 1:9
So what do I want to reflect? The light of Jesus. God stepping down into our frail, sinful humanity, becoming one of us. Experiencing our grief and loss and pain. Dying in our place, so that we might be made right with God and experience His joy and peace. Giving us the hope of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. 😉
Whether you are a Christian or not, I challenge you to spend some time reflecting, both on your previous year (definition 2), and on what you are reflecting (definition 1). We’re all reflecting something. We can’t absorb everything, so something has to be bouncing back to the people around us. What is it right now, and what do you want it to be? Maybe we can make the world a little bit brighter in 2019.
Merry Christmas to you, and the happiest of New Years!
Image credit: Pexels.com, CC0 license.