Giant snowflakes whirled outside, just like my mental “to do” list, was whirling inside my head. “Bake five dozen cookies for the Christmas cookie exchange, get groceries for our open house, and write your Christmas newsletter.” I secretly vowed one more thing. I would shop for Christmas presents early, avoiding picked over merchandise. With a scrutinizing eye, I’d choose gifts that wouldn't get stashed in drawers or returned immediately after Christmas. I aimed to make that Christmas an unforgettable, super-sized happy holiday!
Instead, agitation and grumpiness grew. Noisy “holiday” chatter, kept rambling in my head, reminding me of my duties, drowning out hope-filled Christmas messages. Instead of “joyful and triumphant”, I grew joyless and discontent.
One evening, after tucking my five-year-old in bed, I snarled at my husband for allowing our fifteen-year-old to talk on the phone before finishing her homework. Stinging words drove a thick wedge between us. I snubbed his apology and stormed out of the room. Rather than going to sleep in “heavenly peace”, I grumbled, “I have to take care of everyone and everything!”
In the morning I knew I had to make a change. I removed myself from all the holiday stress. I quieted myself at Jesus’ feet. But, to be honest, it wasn't easy.
Gently and humbly, Jesus spoke, “Pam, come to Me… You are weary, emotionally run down, and carry heavy burdens. I want to give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
I finally relaxed. Then I asked the obvious. “Lord, how do I enter into Your rest? I don’t know how.”
Jesus began, “You don’t have to write a Christmas letter.”
I protested. Long-distance friends and relatives must hear from me at least once a year! I couldn't bear the thought of disappointing them.
Then Jesus uncovered a huge, all-seasonal lie clouding my mind. I must please everyone. Buying into that lie, I had considered myself a failure when I detected a disappointing look or heard a negative comment. Regarding gift giving, it fed my inflated ego, driving me to give charming, beautiful things to make others happy. I’d feel good about myself and also look good in others’ eyes.
The Master Giver of peace, joy and good-will, continued. “Call John and apologize.” My apology destroyed my wall of resentment and rekindled our marriage communication.
Entering into Jesus’ presence, He showed me the way for inner peace…quiet rest. He did in me only what I allowed Him to do. I could let go of my Christmas letter and my perspective about gift giving changed. Then an amazing thing happened. Christmas came early that year.
Three weeks before Christmas, I began giving gifts… priceless, unbreakable gifts, never to wear out gifts. Encouraging words, even really small ones fit those tiny empty places in a heart. The gift of love. To love with a smile, a listening ear and an honest compliment never becomes unfashionable. The gift of patience…undeserved. The gift of kindness that doesn't care to get a pay back.
The secret to giving in such a way is by first receiving. During this hectic holiday season, enter into Jesus’ presence with simple faith and childlike trust. Ask Jesus, “What do you want to do in me?” He’ll show you how to rest. And you’ll receive from Him a lavish supply of encouragement, love, patience and kindness.
“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9 NRSV)