Do you ever feel like you suffer from stillness illness?
I know I do.
Our habit is to live life in a constant state of busy-ness, which often we don’t like, but have no idea how to change. Work must be done. Children must be taken places. Friends and extended family members must be attended to. So we attempt to live life in this whirwind of activity that only ramps up the closer we get to the holidays. We’re not just trying to survive life. We’re adding to it. Constantly.
They are all good things mind you. Who doesn’t want to participate in the office party, and the school function, and all the things the Church does? But the level of stress continues to rise the closer and closer we get to December 25, as we attempt to keep our Pinterest faces on to cover up our spent hearts.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
What if we tried to go the other direction? What if we attempted to slow down when everything around us is ramping up? What if we said “no” when we feel so absolutely compelled to say “yes?”
I think it might be possible to experience Christmas differently this year, and come away richer because of it.
Luke recounts a story from Jesus’ life where he’s visiting with some friends. The sisters of Lazarus the host, Martha and Mary, obviously have much to do to prepare for Jesus and His guests. Martha finds herself busy in the kitchen doing all the things that need to be done for a nice first century party, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening.
Martha is understandably upset (this girl is someone I can fully relate to), her frustration rising each moment Mary continues to shirk away from her responsibilities.
Jesus, there are cookies to bake and presents to wrap and we have like seven other functions to attend just this week. PLEASE tell Mary to get her rear in gear and help me out here!
But Jesus does’t buy into Martha’s busyness.
“The Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)
I’d love to paraphrase His message to us today:
Stop rushing. Stop being busy. Stop trying to do everything for everyone, and just take a minute to remember me. This season you’re gearing up to celebrate? It’s not really about presents and parties and trying to do all the holiday things you feel like you’re supposed to. It’s not really about having a great time with your family. It’s definitely not about swirling around the demands of the calendar.
Christmas is about peace – the peace I came to bring to the world as a child in the manger. The peace that makes you right before the Father. Let that peace invade your heart. Let it quiet your soul. Let it stir something different in you this year. Let Me be the best thing about this Christmas and everything else will fall into place.
I think most of us hear this type of invitation and echo an immediate YES to this kind of Christmas. We know our lives are too busy and the promise of rest, of peace, is something we desperately want. But how do we stop our stillness illness? How do we practically plan to experience Christmas differently this year?
I’d like to leave you with three suggestions as we look ahead toward the holidays:
 Commit to a different kind of Christmas NOW.
Take a few minutes in the coming days to think about what you want Christmas to look like this year. Plan for the blank space like you would anything else jockeying for position in your life. Mark it in ink and commit to protecting it. Prioritize your time, energy, and finances and then realistically assess the non-negotiables of your life before you make any additional Christmas plans.
 Intentionally say “no” so you can intentionally say “yes.”
Christmas is absolutely a season filled with very good things, but as Volatire said, good is often the enemy of the best. Remember that every time you say no to something you are actually saying yes to something else (and vice versa). Make every no and yes a reflection of what’s most important to you this season.
 Consider how you might make Advent personal this year.
For some, Advent never makes it into the Christmas equation. For others, it’s only a religious event wrapped in Church tradition. Consider how you might use the season of Advent as a tool to connect personally to the Christ of Christmas, to reflect, and to consider what really matters this season.
Christmas was never intended to take the life out of you, but instead through Jesus, to give you life to the full.
Praying this is the kind of Christmas you experience this year.
Experience Christmas is the response to my own stillness illness. I get wrapped up in the holidays and have often arrived at Christmas celebrations on the 25th haggled by the crazy of the season, worn down, spent, and emptied of the very reason I celebrate in the first place.
Writing this devotional helped reconnect me to the Child in the manger in an incredible way. It’s helped me inch away from the busy-ness of Martha to embrace the stillness of Mary.
I hope it might do the same for you.
About the Book
Experience Christmas: Preparing Your Heart for the Manger Through the Stories and Songs of the Season is a daily Advent devotional formatted to engage the reader through Scripture, song, reflection, and prayer. Formatted for both individual or group study, Experience Christmas is an incredible tool for both believer and seeker to engage the Biblical narrative in a new way this Christmas.
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