I’m glad Christmas is on a Sunday this year and that we’ll gather to worship and rest in Christ on Christmas. Most of us need to rest on Christmas or maybe we need a rest from Christmas. Christmas Day often feels like the summit of a long arduous climb. Through the travails of decorating, gift getting and party going by the time the day rolls around it feels good to relish in our accomplishment of reaching another Christmas Summit. But amidst the shrapnel of gift wrap stroan across the living room floor and extra plastic parts that we couldn't seem to find a place for, we have to ask ourselves how did it get this way? How did the day we celebrate peace on Earth and good will towards men become what it is today? How can decorating, gift getting and party going become so stressful? How can the day we celebrate our Saviour often make us so sour?
In this series, we’ve been looking at the Norman Rockwell effect. That’s when Christmas can’t bear under the weight of the expectation we place upon it or live up to the hopes we have in it. Last week, we addressed Christmas and the Millennial. Today, I want to talk a bit about Christmas and the Middle Aged parent.
For most of us middle aged, ballet watching, basketball coaching, carpooling types, much of the challenges that we face during this year are not as much of the expectations we have for Christmas, but the expectations we feel from others on Christmas. Whether it's the hopes of meeting our children’s gift expectations, or meeting the neighbors Christmas lighting standards or managing the family dynamics of the Christmas meal, many people in my season of life feel the weight of other’s expectations.
Christmas seems to have a way of exposing the issues of the heart and many of us struggle with the “fear of man.”
Proverbs 29: 25 says,
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.
The world of the Old Testament was a more violent and volatile time so that the writer of this Proverb was most likely literally fearful of loss of life or property. While, that doesn't mean that isn't a real fear of some today, most of us in my season of life have a more emotionally oriented fear, than a physical fear of man. The idol known as “fear of man” is when our desire for other’s approval has a more sway on us than our assurance of who we are in Christ. The Lord teaches us in this Proverb that those fears of man are a snare for us. Here are a few snares at Christmas.
One of the biggest “snares” for us middle- aged parents is the pressure we feel to give our kids a good Christmas. For the most part, this is natural and I’m not advocating giving your kids a lump of coal this Christmas, but every parent feels the real pressure to make this Christmas a “good one.” The pressure seems to be multiplied when everybody else is getting or has either gotten "it" for Christmas. I have to remind myself that “gifts are grace.” Literally, that’s what the word means! Grace is a free, unmerited gift. If your station in life affords you the ability to fill the room with presents, this is an opportunity to teach your children that these gifts are grace and not an entitlement of our affluence. On the other hand, if it's difficult for you to afford Christmas, we too must remember that His grace is sufficient even in our want, so that in plenty or in want, we can celebrate the Giftgiver more than the gift. These are hard lessons, I know, but it points us to a deeper joy at Christmas than the enthusiasm of sparkly things and electronic gizmos.
The second snare is the pressure we feel from the myriad of relationships. A friend mentioned to me recently how difficult it is for his spouse to interact with his step dad at Christmas. My friend said that over the years, he had developed the mechanisms to handle his step father’s crude remarks and passive aggressive undertones. He said that he had gone “nose blind” to the smell of his step dad’s verbal jabs and would say, "That’s just the way he is” and move on, until he realized that his wife didn’t have the same response. It affected her differently. While we may very well need to be sensitive to seating charts at the dinner table and considerate of which sibling is getting mother a new electric blanket this year, relational dynamics (particular in the family) are another opportunity to remember that we are Adopted by the Father and He relates to us in grace and patience. If you have a “Cousin Eddie” (Griswold reference) that is almost intolerable, then pray for patience and kindness, and that you wouldn’t let their words define you. You are named by Christ who died for you and it is He who has called you his bride, friend and accepted in the Beloved.
The last snare we feel at Christmas is managing the expectations that we feel to perform. This is an area mom’s feel the brunt of. Whether its the kids holiday parties or managing the needs of extended family, many middle aged parents (particularly moms) are the most stretched around the holidays.
Now I know that it would be easy to say, Just Say No! But we all know that saying NO just isn't that easy. We have to remember that there are some things that we can afford to say no to and for most of us, we should say no to these things. Walk in freedom. Your life is hidden in Christ- not in how well you bake Christmas cookies or the clever way you hide a Christmas elf. Walk in freedom that God has given you different ways to serve and may not have given you the ability to replicate perfectly everything you see on Pinterest. Secondly, there are some things that we have to say Yes to. A parent who has a doctor’s appointment or kid who has a geometry final are things that are just going to require our attention. Walk in freedom, rely on the Lord. God is able to regain the lost time needed to wrap presents or close that important sale before the end of the year.
Regardless of which snare you are prone to step in this Christmas, remember the second half of the Proverb. It says, “But he who trust in the Lord is safe.” It is a wonderful reality to know that with God we are safe. Many of us fear the reprisal of buying the wrong present or under performing in the kitchen, but with God we are safe and accepted in Christ. He welcomes us in his Beloved. In Christ, you are safe. You are safe from the condemnation that our sins deserve and the cold shoulder of God. For you who are in Christ, you are safe from the fear of measuring up because Christmas is about the Perfect One who measured up on our Behalf, who became sin that we may be the Righteousness of God. This Christmas may you walk in the freedom of Christ. In the Words of Zachariah’s “Christmas Song.”
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham,
to grant us that we,
being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear.