Many years ago I wrote book titled Coping With Christmas. We illustrated the book with a few amateur photographs that were taken around our neighborhood and we filled the 63 pages with stories and short essays with cutesy titles all starting with the letter M. The Madness, Misery, Miracles, Mystery, Merriment and Memories of Christmas were among the chapters, each with a focus on a different Christmas pressure. The chapters gave self-help guidelines for coping and all were intended to bring a spiritual message that ultimately pointed readers to Jesus.
I thought of this when I read the Time magazine cover story on “Why Anxiety is Good for You” (December 5, 2011). In many ways the article was a rehash of basic psychology with a little neurophysiology thrown in. The writer mentioned anxiety from double-dip recessions, wars, terrorist threats, weather patterns and post traumatic stress but gave only passing reference to “holiday gridlock.” The article’s focus was on the benefits of anxiety. That’s an interesting contrast with our present year-end time of Christmas preparation pressures, angst, fear, breathless hyperactivity, and unrealistic expectations (much self-imposed) all encircling a day initially designed to commemorate the coming of the Prince of Peace.
There are two faces of anxiety, the Time article states. One can motivate us, the other paralyzes. Each serves a useful purpose. The first, “challenge stress,” stimulates us to plan ahead, invigorates us, and helps us feel that we have the resources to succeed. When it’s not too strong this anxiety keeps us alert and protects us from danger. The other anxiety “threat stress” can immobilize us with fear and insecurity. This causes us to fall apart when pressures build – including the pressures of Christmas.
In a time of great anxiety, Jesus promised peace to his worried disciples (John 14:27). Paul reminded us that God’s peace is available to those who pray and are thankful (Phil. 4:6-7). Please pause and consider your reasons for peace and thanksgiving as you watch a short Christmas video from some villagers in the small Yupiq Eskimo Village of Quinhagak, Alaska. Have a peaceful Christmas, everyone. And please leave a comment.