Keep Calm by Keeping The Holidays Sacred
“At the end of the day, you should feel like these holidays honored God because you kept them sacred. In other words, your plans, preparations, and attitude of the heart were set apart from those far from God. When we keep things sacred, we make it more about Him and less about us.”
The month of November always ties me in knots.
On the one hand, it is definitely one of the most beautiful times of the year, at least in my part of the world. There is nothing more striking than a landscape filled with fall colored leaves, green grass, and flowers still in bloom. This is the reprieve from Central California’s heat I’ve been longing for and it’s wonderful. For now, I feel peaceful and fairly calm even though I’m swamped with school work, regular work, chores, family stuff, and taking care of myself. But like every year around this time, other feelings are beginning to press in on me—the old familiar enemies of anxiety and dread. I’m positive I’m in denial about the two back-to-back holidays looming in front of me that seem to grow more extravagant, more labor-intensive, and more crazy and overwhelming every year. I know from years’ past that my peaceful and calm feelings are about to be replaced by a frenetic, anxiety-ridden pace, and the hassle of preparations for the holidays—and I don’t like it…not one bit.
My family loves Thanksgiving and Christmas, so choosing to boycott them is not an option; I would have a mutiny on my hands! Pondering this on my walk today, I found myself thinking about how I could prepare and still make them special while maintaining my peace and calm. Is it even possible? Knowing my own answer was a resounding, “No!”, I reframed my question and asked God directly what He thinks about it. “God, what do you think about how I should prepare for these holidays? What could I do better to avoid feeling completely exhausted by the time Christmas roles around? How can I help my family celebrate without giving in to the frenetic pace that’s growing all around me?”
I continued to walk, leaves crunching under my feet. The crisp breeze floated through the trees and I waited, listening for some great advice. His answer was simple. He said, “Keep them sacred.“
“Wait, Lord! You said, ‘Keep them sacred’? What does that mean exactly?” No answer.
“Ok,” I thought. “I better figure out exactly what He meant when I get home.”
I started by looking up the definition of the word “sacred” and here’s what I found. If something is sacred, it means to be:
- Dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity;
- Connected with God or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration;
- Religious rather than secular;
- Highly valued and important, deserving of reverence and great respect.
Synonyms of sacred are hallowed, holy, inviolable, untouchable, unassailable; Antonyms are nonreligious, profane, and secular.
My research also brought me to this passage in the Bible, John 2:13-16, recording the first temple cleansing that Jesus performed just as Passover was approaching. It is important to understand that Passover was one of the top three religious festivals the Jews celebrated, similar to how devout Christians view Christmas. They, too, made tons of preparations, and travelled a very long way to celebrate this holy, sacred feast that commemorated their deliverance from Egypt on the night when God “passed over” the homes of the Israelites, saving them from the slaughter of their first born sons. But look what happened when Jesus came to the Temple:
“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” John 2:13-16 (NASB)
What I want to point out here is not the fact that people were buying, selling, and exchanging money at the temple; instead, I want you to understand the spirit behind his rebuke of the Jews. Christ was jealous for the holiness of God’s house, and angry at the way the people were mistreating the sacredness of Passover. The money changers and the people buying that day were exhibiting greed and chaos, and had fallen into a frenetic pace of buying and selling. Do you see any resemblance of how things are today? Kind of sounds like Christmas-time in America!
So if God is saying, “Keep them sacred,” then what does that look like for us? (I’m assuming here that the same message He relayed to me would be the same message He would also give to others.) I’m almost positive that what we do today to prepare for Christmas is not set apart or “sacred”—I’m talking about “Black Friday,” and now “Gray Thursday,” and spending exorbitant amounts of money for things we (and our children) don’t need. I heard recently that one of the major retailers will be opening on Thanksgiving Day at 5 p.m. Women have already started lining up at Best Buy to be the first ones in the door come Friday morning. If last year is any indication of how things will be this year, take a look at what happened last year! Fights and brawls broke out, people were pushing and shoving, family time was replaced with shopping for the best deal! What in the world is going on? When is enough, enough? Is nothing sacred anymore? I’m asking!
This holiday season, consider how you can keep these two holidays sacred. How can you set yourself apart from the way things are done today? I’m not saying to not buy Christmas presents, or make it 100% religious. But what I am saying is to think of ways that you can say “No!” to the mainstream chaos that is coming. Here are few ideas of my own; I’d like to hear yours, too—just leave me a comment below!
- Resolve in your mind to not participate in the Gray Thursday or Black Friday sales events. Not only do they scream “secular,” “profane,” and “nonreligious” (the antonyms of “sacred”), but they don’t generate feelings of goodness toward mankind—accomplishment, maybe, but certainly not peace or calm. I did this only one time a few years ago, and while fun to some degree, I came home exhausted and frustrated. I ended up ordering everything on-line for the same prices and free shipping! Why would I ever go back out there again? If you are one that has to go anyway, see how you can be a blessing to other shoppers out there. How can you represent Christ to the harried?
- Plan to attend a Christian church during the entire month of December. This will keep God on your mind throughout the entire prep time and help you keep things in perspective. If you’ve never attended a Christmas Eve (or pre-Christmas Eve) service, plan to do so. It’s beautiful and full of reverence and joy. If you don’t have a church, a great way to find one is to ask someone you know where they go and follow them. I personally would be happy to take you to mine—email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- Resist buying too much this year. If there are 10 things on your list for each child, cut it down to 4 or 5. Trust me, kids don’t need 25 gifts each, and we don’t either for that matter! Remember, less can be more if you give each person a thoughtful gift that you picked out specifically with them in mind.
- When you do go shopping, consider going early mornings (9-11) or evenings (6-9)—less busy and hectic. Grab a latte, pick a place to shop that is not the mall where you can park and walk—a cute downtown, a shopping center, and Christmas fairs are good for this. Worship God as you listen to the words of the Christmas music and think of each person on your list.
- Be generous with your time and money. Figure out how to serve someone else other than yourself or your own family. There are countless ways to get involved in giving campaigns at churches or in your community, even in your own neighborhood! Giving is definitely better than receiving, since God not only blesses the receiver, but the giver as well (see 2 Corinthians 9:7). Don’t forget those in nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, orphanages, the homeless, or shut-ins. I realize that our role as women is to serve our family and make the holidays special, so if this overwhelms you, why not ask your family members to get on board here, maybe to coordinate something instead of you?
- Be realistic in your expectations and set some boundaries. You don’t have to participate in every ornament exchange, every giving opportunity, or make everything perfect. Pick the ones that sound best to you and let the others go.
At the end of the day, you should feel like you honored God by keeping the holidays sacred. In other words, your plans, preparations, and attitude of the heart should be set apart from those far from God. When we keep things sacred, we make it more about Him and less about us. I’m not sure how God wants YOU to specifically engage these upcoming holidays, but I do know one thing for sure: He wants you to keep them sacred—set apart and connected for the worship of Him, religious instead of secular, and full of reverence and great respect. On Thanksgiving Day, keep it sacred by making it solely a time for families to come together to give thanks for His provision and blessing in our lives. And on Christmas, reflect on God’s son, Jesus Christ, and what it means that God sent Him here for you (see Luke 1-2, and Matthew 1:18-2:12). When we do, He promised to give us the peace and calm we desperately crave (Luke 2:14; John 14:27).
Can you do it? Can you keep these holidays sacred? Tell me how by leaving a comment below.