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How to Handle Holiday Stress?

Luke 10:38 42

A little boy and a little girl were singing their favorite Christmas carol in church the Sunday before Christmas. The boy concluded “Silent Night” with the words, “sleep in heavenly beans.” His sister elbowed him, and said, “No. Not beans, peas!”

The way many of us feel by the time we are ready for Christmas, the song might just as well end with beans or peas instead of peace. Because sometimes in the frantic rush to get everything done the peace of the season seems to elude us.

I’ve tried to compile a list of potential things that happen at this time of year which may contribute to increased stress during the holiday season. See if any of these ring a bell, no holiday pun intended.

Shopping for gifts
Getting to the necessary holiday parties
Putting up the decorations
Cooking a meal
Wrapping the gifts
Making enough cookies and breads to give away
Buying a tree
Fighting the traffic
Having enough money to buy gifts
(If married) Figuring out when to celebrate at both sets of parents without offending either
All the stores are out of the gift you’re looking for
Three frightening words – Some assembly required
Having the right clothes for social occasions
Gaining weight
Christmas programs for the kids at school and at church
Untangling the strands of lights
Sending out Christmas cards
Hearing “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” for the 150th time
Cleaning the house
Forgetting someone for whom you should have purchased a gift
Feeling the pressure to make a memory
Knowing the year is coming to a close and you didn’t accomplish what you intended to
Facing relatives you don’t get along with
All of your work is due on a rapidly approaching December 25 deadline
Knowing that maybe you’ll spend Christmas alone
Three often overlooked words – batteries not included
Being a part of a family that celebrates separately because of a divorce
Christmas lights that won’t work
Arranging travel schedules
Missing loved ones who have passed away
Paying off the credit cards
Weeding through crowded stores
Members of your family who find where you hid their presents.

When you compile a list like this, it’s easy to see why Christmas is a major period of increased stress for many people.

Does Christ have anything to say to us in the midst of this season of hurry and rush? I believe he does. After all, it’s his birthday party, so what does he think about all of this?

There’s a humorous little story in the Gospel of Luke that shows how busyness and stress gets in the way of what matters most. It wasn’t his birthday, but it was a party, and Jesus was the honored guest.

READ LUKE 10:38-42

Understanding what Jesus said to Martha about Mary, it’s easy to see that…
THESIS: We will enjoy the season much more when we simply focus on what is “needed.”


A. Martha said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40)

I think Martha was experiencing some stress.

Rushing around trying to get everything ready – after all Jesus was in her house!

Stress can result from anything that: Annoys you, Threatens you, Excites you, Scares you,
Worries you, Hurries you, Angers you, Frustrates you, Challenges you, Criticizes you,
Or by anything that reduces your self-esteem.

It can be caused by almost anything pleasant or unpleasant.
The experts say that getting married is actually more stressful than getting fired from your job. And retirement is more than twice as stressful as moving to a new residence.

Illus – Think about a rubber band. If stretched, it will return to its normal, relaxed position when the external force is removed.

The body’s stress response is also stretched whenever it is subjected to any emergency or demand. It ought to return to a normal, relaxed state when the demand is removed.
If stretched for a long time and held, it loses its elastic properties and will eventually snap.

I was going to actually snap this rubber band, but when I practiced it hurt worse than I thought it would!!

C. If our bodies are repeatedly held in a state of alarm, they will show damaging consequences.

Some symptoms of stress are: Frequent headaches, Stiffness in the neck, shoulders, jaw, arms, legs, hands or stomach. Irregular heartbeats, Getting dizzy or lightheaded, Suffering from colds, flu or hoarseness, Indigestion, nausea or discomfort in the stomach, Difficulty falling or staying asleep. Waking up feeling tired, Cold hands or cold feet, Excess perspiration
Anger or irritability.

The holiday season can be a period of major stress. The rubber-band gets stretched pretty far and held there. Maybe some of you are feeling the effects.

So we’ve seen what stress is, but what about its cure?


A. “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (Luke 10:40)

Doesn’t that sound like us sometimes?

1. Like Martha, we can get so distracted by all the seemingly necessary things that we miss the point.

B. The answer is to be like Mary.

Look what Jesus tells Martha…
1. “Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better…” (Luke 10:42)

2. She realized spending time with Jesus was more important than external preparations.

Martha’s choice had not been bad. The things she was working on were all good – it simply wasn’t the wisest choice at the moment. Why? Jesus was there!

3. All the Christmas preparations are good, but there is “only one thing” that is “needed.”

And that thing that is needed this Christmas is spending time with Jesus in a personal, intimate love relationship.

4. We must never get so busy with the outward things that we neglect the quiet and peaceful worship of our Lord.

Illus – Lucinda Norman wrote an article in Lookout magazine for December 15, 1996 called “An Atmosphere of Calm.” She describes her Christmas shopping experience at a busy mall. People have been pushing, elbowing and cutting in front of her all day. Hardly able to take it anymore, she says,
“During a 10-minute special (10% off the already 25% discount), a woman grabbed a lace tablecloth from my hands. I looked her straight in the eye and grunted, “Mine!” and yanked it back. I won. By 4 o’clock in the afternoon, my mood was belligerent.”

At a mall restaurant she met some friends and flagged down a server and said, “I need hot tea, now!” The lady snapped at her and said, “I’m not your server. Wait your turn.”

She said, “Lady, I’ve been waiting my turn all day, bring me some tea!” But the waitress ignored her.

A few moments later, a friendly young man came to her table smiling and said, “I’m Rob, your waiter.” After he took their order she noticed that Rob stopped to help the rude waitress with her tray. He greeted the other customers and staff.

In the midst of dozens of hurried shoppers and restaurant staff he conducted himself in a polite, unhurried atmosphere of calm. When he refilled her tea, Lucinda noticed a silver ring on his right hand made of connected letters. After he walked away, she said to the other ladies at the table, “Did you notice that our server is wearing a ring that spells Jesus?”

From that moment her attitude changed. This one young man’s example had reminded her of the peace that Christ came to bring. He had apparently spent time with the Lord. For the rest of the day, she enjoyed shopping, opened the door for others, let people in front of her at the check-out-line. In an atmosphere of calm.

How can we be calm in the midst of stress all around us at this time of year? How can we be like Mary, and simply focus on what is needed?

C. Here’s a good place to start: Cross out everything that takes away from the real meaning of Christmas.

For instance, if it’s really stressing you out, do you absolutely have to make those special cookies that take a whole afternoon to make?

Or, do you absolutely have to put up all the lights on the house that you did last year?

1. Lay out a plan

State your expectations up front (What is the main thing that needs to happen this Christmas? Plan ahead, Share the load with others (other family members can help)
Lighten the calendar (Which events are optional?) Respect your budget (Have you determined how much you will spend before you go shopping?)

2. Put your most significant relationships first

Christ – spending personal time with Him and worshiping Him at church

The holidays don’t have to be the most stressful time of the year when, like Mary, we only focus on what is needed.


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