Christmas is supposed to be a time filled with joy. As Christians we are encouraged to remember that Christmas was when Christ came into the world. However, for many people, Christians included, Christmas becomes a very stressful time of year.
It is easy to say remember the true spirit of Christmas but in reality, it can be much harder to do in practice. I have a number of tips that can make the season less stressful.
1. Find out what help is available
Sometime we can think that if we follow Christ then life should be easy. This is not always the case, if you read the Acts of the Apostles, you will know the early disciples, faced shipwrecks, imprisonment and even martyrdom. So, struggles can be part of the Christian life. When they do occur, we should be honest, rather than blaming ourselves because we didn’t pray enough or do enough, we need to understand that we are living in a fallen world which means there will be hardships. You can be a faithful Christian and be struggling financially, feel stressed, anxious or struggle a lot. When these things happen, we should reach out to one another. Ideally, we should reach out within the Church but sometimes all the help we may need may not be there.
The Family Services Directory has an almost complete list of all the help and support agencies throughout New Zealand. https://www.familyservices.govt.nz/directory/ There are nearly 5000 nationwide, so if you are struggling financially, have a dependence on alcohol, are feeling depressed then find someone who can help.
At this time of year relationships can also become stressed. Strong family relationships need to be at the heart of the Church. Relationships are not easy, Disney movies often give us a distorted idea of what relationships are like. Living with another person is not always easy, so all couples will have some challenges. Some may need more help than others. If you are struggling, Family Works is a nationwide organisation that can help strengthen families, https://familyworks.org.nz/
Here are three services that you may not know about:
https://www.moneytalks.co.nz/ Has a complete list of all the budgeting services throughout NZ. It is best to get help early if you need it rather than waiting until you have several final warning credit notices.
https://www.safetotalk.nz/ This is a free phone number where you can ask questions about possible sexual harm. Often people who experience this don’t know what to do, this phone line lets you discuss what may have happened and then to look at options.
https://yellowbrickroad.org.nz/ There is a lot of support for people with mental illness but we often forget about the impact on the whole family. Yellow Brick Road offers help for families that are going through tough times.
Sometimes people are nervous about seeking help, if you are not sure, I encourage you to go for one session, if you don’t like it you can leave at any time.
2. Read or watch A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
Unlike many other books by Dickens, A Christmas Carol is short. If you are not so good at reading then there are many film versions. It is the story of a cruel and evil man who finds redemption at Christmas. It can help us focus on the important things.
3. Have childlike awe
Mark 10:14 says, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people who are like these little children.” Children tend not to get stressed at Christmas, instead they tend to have a sense of childlike awe. If you find yourself stressing over money or a never-ending to do list, try and pause for a moment and imagine how a child would think at Christmas. Jesus wants us to have a childlike wonder. When we focus on the presents and jobs to be done we forget that the God who created the infinite universe humbled Himself to become man. That is truly something to behold. If we can try and hold onto that then maybe some of the other stresses at Christmas become less significant.
Michael is a popular PK speaker, TEDx Speaker and Author of Being A True Hero: Understanding and Preventing Suicide in Your Community, www.beingatruehero.com