Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Christmas Control Freak

Christmas is a frightening time to spend with a control freak. Or maybe it would be better to say that the weeks leading up to Christmas are hell on earth (in a very real sense--strife, anger, isolation, unmet expectations). What is the driving force?

In my many musings about myself and others who are involved in church/Christian activities, Christmas is the apex of the year. It has become the apex not simply because it is the celebration of Christ's birth (although that is the declared "reason for the season"); it is not even because of the many opportunities for service that abound this time of year. Boiled down to its essence, the control and stress issues of Christmas are appearance and performance: me.

Christmas in the church has become--has often been, in my experience--a stage. It is not the fault of the pastor, or the leaders, or the congregation. In fact, it is not a stage in the heart and mind of many who worship there. But in the mind and heart of some it has become the time and place to "put on the Ritz." The cards are sent in great quantities and with flair, the children are decked out in holiday ribbons and polished shoes, the neighbors and teachers and bus drivers are lauded with wondrous, beautiful confections.

Conflict is rife as there are glitches in the mailing process, children don't do as they're told (or expected), Christmas cookies flop, and time runs short. Frustration mounts. Anger hovers just below the surface. And, as my loving husband would comment, "Why?... Why are you doing this?"

My initial response is, "because it's part of Christmas, it just has to be done." The (often-hidden) heart response is, "because my reputation is on the line, how would it look if I didn't _______?!" And this is the center of heart worship: my reputation, if I....

When will we understand that "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6)? God doesn't care how wonderfully or completely or beautifully I perform. He does not hold me to a standard of doing. That's why Jesus came--because our doing was not enough. There is no way to please God by keeping the law, by keeping more than the law. We cannot do enough, well enough, to qualify.

Loving, serving, and pleasing God is all about who He is. It is coming by faith and depending on Him for the doing. My control freakish attitude changes when I begin to pray, "Lord, if it is Your will, help me express gratitude to those who serve our family throughout the year." "Lord how would You desire me to serve?" "God, give me the wisdom to order my day according to Your priorities, in loving service to my family first and foremost."

When I walk through the Christmas season by faith, there is room for human failure. There is grace for myself and others--because it's not about me anymore. It's not about appearance or pride or glitz or show. It's about dependence. And in that dependence on God, my focus changes from doing to being--being loving, kind, patient, joyful, peaceful, self-controlled, good, and gentle. In essence, celebrating Christmas by faith. This is the perfect Christmas. This is the gift the Christ child desires. What gift will I give today? When the reins of life are in my hand, the cart is lost. When the reins are in the hand of the Master, the destination is reached.

Whether you yourself or someone you love is a Christmas control freak, may you find yourself depending on a loving heavenly Father as you enjoy the festivities of Christ's birth.

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