Once again it’s that most wonderful time of the year. Have you noticed the stress level rising steadily everywhere you go?

We haven’t quite reached the melt-your-earrings stress level yet. That’s reserved for two days before Christmas, when you realize that the hideous sweater you’d planned to regift your sister was actually from your mother-in-law and now she, along with the three additional dinner guests she just invited to your house for Christmas dinner, will actually be in attendance to witness firsthand your callous ungratefulness and ineptitude at hiding it.

So off to the mall you go. That horrible, under-parking-spaced, overly Christmas-caroled, garishly decorated, faux-glee-fabricated, nightmarish, money-sucking factory bursting at the seams with listless people like you pathetically, list-lessly (as in no list) wandering around, searching for…for…for anything that doesn’t scream YOU WERE AN AFTERTHOUGHT!

Even my house is feeling the strain. With Stress-Com 4 rapidly approaching, the weightiness of performance pressure is causing my fake hanging poinsettias to jump ship, littering the front flower bed with weirdness.

The fireplace garland refuses to stay on the mantle. It prefers to droop beneath the
majestic angel above, making it appear that she has lost her festive bloomers.

Our manger scene is missing Baby Jesus. Again.

The animated plush soul man dressed like a festive ‘Blues Brothers’ will NOT stop
singing “I’m a snowwwwww man!” no matter how many times you pound the OFF button.

And yet, amid all this hair-tearing craziness, we’re called to reflect on the reason for the season—the Christ child in a manger. Only then can we experience Papa God’s peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and like Mary, the mother of our Savior, quietly internalize the wonder.

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart,” (Luke 2:19, NIV).

So, my friend, how do you plan to dial down this year, scale back and focus on the true gift and not all the wrappings?