by the Rev. Peter K. Stimpson

QUESTION: I hate Christmas. It’s just pressure, pressure, pressure! I’m always exhausted when it’s over, as if I’ve run through some sort of gauntlet. Am I weird? Is my complaint common? Can you help?

ANSWER: Yes, your complaint is very common. But, the pressure cooker in which you find yourself is strangely created by yourself. You have unwittingly given others the power to determine your worth, instead of calmly deciding what it is that you can and cannot do. You cannot please all the people all the time, no matter how much money you spend on gifts or how lavish a party you throw. So, pull the plug on the pressure by bravely deciding what you want to do vs. what you feel that you have to do.

Let’s look at 4 areas of stress to make my point clear:

1. SHOPPING:

• Realize that there is no "perfect present," and that your goal is to demonstrate love, not to outdo previous years with oohs and ahs.

• Try not to overspend in an

effort to overcompensate for too much quantity of time at work and too little quality time at home. Instead, reinvest yourself in your family.

• If you really want to go for the brass ring of mall maturity, be courteous to the discourteous, and try not to have a short temper while waiting in a long line.

2. FAMILY:

• Put the needs of your spouse and children before the pressures of family and friends. It’s OK to tell your mother that you are celebrating Christmas in your own home, and to visit fewer

relatives so as to do so out of love rather than duty.

• If you are short on money, then cut or eliminate your long list of people designated for Christmas cards, and consider giving one gift instead of many to your spouse and children.

• Therefore, a good rule of thumb to adopt is to consider

doing less so as to enjoy the

holidays more.

3. CHURCH: To take the stress out of Christmas, try putting Christ back into it. Instead of threatening your spouse and children with bodily harm if they do not accompany you to church, consider reminding them of the real meaning of Christmas. I am not talking about a stern lecture that will turn everyone off, but rather a discussion about the meaning of love. How much God must love us to have allowed his Son to be born in a manger instead of a palace, wrapped in swaddling cloths instead of silk, living in a town so obscure that it is not even mentioned in the Old Testament, and then being willing to die for us on a cross. Therefore, we go to church not out of duty with a gun to our head, but out of love and a desire to rediscover the meaning of our lives.

4.TV SPECIALS: If you came from an abusive family, or if your parents or spouse have died, or if you have been through a divorce, the endless onslaught of maudlin TV specials, depicting happy "normal" families might make you think that your family is anything but normal. And yet, what we are shown is an ideal

towards which we all strive, the attainment of which is never fully within our grasp. We should not be discouraged by this image, just patient and persistent in our journey towards it.

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