Mike Berry puts the spirit back in Christmas.
It’s one of the most recognizable, and well-known Christmas songs of all time: Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright, round yon virgin, mother and child, Holy infant, so tender and mild, sleep in Heavenly Peace. Sleep in Heavenly Peace. [Joseph Mohr, 1818].
Do we really believe this?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard these words, sung these words, or perhaps even believed these words deep in your heart at one point. However, between the shopping, the cooking, the decorating, the cleaning, the running, the arguments with family, the trashed house an hour before guests arrive, the gifts you forgot to buy, the scheduling, and the overall hustle that is somehow attached to this season, Silent Night has become just another Christmas tune.
This is true in our family. It seems that it’s this way, regardless of how hard we try to not make it this way. Maybe you’re nodding your head right now because this is true for you and your family too.
Why? Have you ever stopped to wonder … why?
Why is Christmas so stressful?
Why is it that the one season out of the entire year, that is supposed to spotlight peace, tends to be so hectic, rushed, and … stressful?
When I spend time thinking about what Christmas is supposed to represent, compared to what it actually represents, I start to feel sad. If I’m really honest, I’m not saddened by what I see in the world around me (That is sad, though), I’m saddened by my own disillusionment. As I write this, I’m running through a list in my head of all the things we need to get done before the big day arrives later this month.
It’s a lot and I’m starting to feel stressed! I’m glancing at the clock in the other room, in between each sentence I write, because I need to get going! I need to get this post done and head out to the store. It’s quiet in my house but soon my kids will be home from school, demanding a snack, and milk, and asking to play on the iPad, and stopping me from getting these so-called important things on my so-important list done. More stress!
Then suddenly I’m reminded—this is Christmas! This is the hallmark month of giving, and peace, and love. What am I doing? What am I thinking? Why are you and I so caught up in the rush that we forget the most important things—Peace? Our loved ones? Our incredibly blessed life?
We’ve forgotten what is most important!
Early on Christmas morning, the most important thing for me will be that a Savior was born this day, and I’m a recipient, not because of anything I’ve deserved or done, of His grace. A close second to that will be the precious human beings who will flood the downstairs, ready to tear into gifts beneath the tree. The fact that I get to spend another Christmas with each of them, and family and friends, is a true gift.
This is what’s most important. But it’s all-to-often forgotten by me. I wonder—will there ever be a Christmas season where I don’t have to be clued in—once again—to this reality?
We’ve made Christmas more commercial than spiritual!
Whether you consider yourself a person of faith or not, the reality is, there is a spiritual side to Christmas. The fact that a large part of it is about ‘giving‘ and ‘peace on earth‘ and ‘goodwill toward men,‘ makes this true. Why? Because all of these actions are spiritual in nature. Sure, giving is a physical act, so is goodwill toward men. But they originate from the heart and the soul. What starts off as spiritual translates into physical acts. If they don’t, they’re not authentic actions to begin with.
When we make this season about the best sale, or the nearest parking spot to the mall entrance, or getting the hottest toy for our kid, it just adds to our stress. The reason is simple—we are spiritual beings. We are wired to think and feel and believe in something greater than ourselves. Generosity and goodwill toward all human-beings makes us better people. They change our heart. When these values are missing, Christmas goes from a matter of the heart to a matter of materialism. The physical, material world is here today and gone tomorrow!
We’ve lost the wonder that our children still have.
When I think about the wonder my kids have over this season, I’m moved. My children do not care about cooking, cleaning, shopping, organizing, or having all the right decorations up. They’re lost in the childlike belief that Santa is coming, love is deep, hope is forever, and a light snowfall is the most amazing thing they’ve ever seen! Last year I glanced over at my six-year old holding his candle tightly (as we told him to do) at our church’s Christmas Eve service. As the flame flickered and danced, his eyes were alive with passion and wonder. He belted out every line of “Silent Night,” off-key and all. There I was making sure everything was in order, completed, and organized so we would “have a great Christmas!”
As I reflect on that moment, I think my son got it and I have some learning to do!
The truth is—there is a commercial side of Christmas and we cannot avoid participating in it (unless you live in a cave in the Rocky Mountains or something). And, we do have to make sure the cooking is done, our house is cleaned, decorations are up, and presents are purchased. I’m not suggesting that we throw these things aside. I’m just suggesting (based on my own stress), that we not make these things the most important part of Christmas.
I think our children possess more wisdom than we give them credit for. Perhaps we need to take a cue from them this Christmas season?
Perhaps they actually embody the words of “Silent Night” more than we realize?