I know this isn’t true in every home, but for many of us at Christmas, the majority of the cooking, baking, shopping, list-making, decorating, and general holiday-magic-creating falls on women.
While this might be great fun for some of us, for others who are also balancing the realities of work, school, or homemaking—the holiday stress can get very real.
A few Christmases ago, I was literally on the living room floor wrapping presents in the middle of the night, sobbing. So tired, stressed, and overwhelmed, I began to ask myself this very profound question: what the heck am I doing?
Around the holidays, anxiety keeps us awake at night. Family or marital conflicts are heightened. Financial burdens overwhelm us. Health struggles can be especially discouraging. And on top of it all, there are so many competing voices speaking into our lives, trying to rob us of true joy.
If this season, which is supposed to be about celebrating our Lord and Savior, causes us to crumble to pieces on our living room floor, then something isn’t lining up.
In Luke chapter 4, we read about Jesus entering into the Israelites’ long hard years of suffering. They were in captivity to Rome at the time, and interestingly, Rome didn’t take over nations to destroy them. They did so in order to convert people into little Roman citizens. So the people of God were not only suffering.; they were also losing their identity as the people of God. I imagine they were asking some of the same questions we ask in seasons of difficulty: Who are we? Where is God in this? Does God see me? Why is God taking so long to act?
It was into this season of waiting, wondering, and worry that Jesus walked a synagogue in his hometown, opened up the scroll with that day’s reading, and proclaimed these words from the ancient prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4: 18-19)
Jesus broke years of silence and suffering, declaring that at last, hope has arrived.
At last, God was bringing a ministry of release—physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, release.
The next time the holiday pressure threatens to steal your joy, remember that Jesus came that first Advent to bring release to the burdened, battered, bent down, and broken. He came to release you from whatever it is that’s holding you captive, so that you can live in freedom, favor, vibrancy, and wholeness. And you can start now.
Spend some time asking yourself and God—What’s holding me captive? What moment in my life or what mistake? What stronghold? What idol? What jealousy? What competition? What anxiety? What event? What fear? What holiday pressure? What consuming worry? What do I need to release so that God’s abundance and joy can increase?
As you evaluate, here’s the thing to remember—God doesn’t ask us to pretend like we don’t have wounds, anxieties, or fears. God’s not asking us to ignore them. He’s asking us to believe in his power and authority over them. He’s asking us to believe that his presence is in them. He’s asking us to believe that his love is enough to carry us through whatever we’re facing.
When Jesus he declared his ministry of release in Luke 4, it’s as though he was speaking to you:
Daughter, sister, friend—
There is no mistake too big for my love to redeem.
There is no prison too secure for my strength.
There is no poverty too overwhelming for my riches.
There is no oppression too weighty for my power.
There is no thing trying to enslave you that I don’t have authority and victory over.
So release it to me, this season. Let me deal with it for you, so that you can thrive.
This time of year doesn’t have to leave you crying on your floor. Instead, let this be your season to surrender, trust, obey, bear fruit, follow that God-dream, have your broken heart restored, help release others from their oppression, and experience the freedom that Jesus declares over all who call upon his name.
No matter what you’re struggling with, may Jesus make his ministry of release real to you, and to all those around you, this Christmas.
Quick tips for thriving this holiday season:
• Carve out regular times of silence and solitude, just listening to, being with, and worshiping Jesus.
• Be in the Word. Soak it up- through listening on an app, reading or both!
• Listen to some great worshipful Christmas music.
• Don’t overstress your budget. Gifts are about love, not about creating a financial burden.
• Give away some of your gift budget- whether it’s to your local church, an organization like A21, or a friend or neighbor in need.
• Take time for soul-care and self-care.
• Ask those evaluative questions above and let go of what you can.
• If you live with family or friends, create time at the dinner table to remember the birth of Jesus, read an advent devotional, or light an Advent candle.
Aubrey Sampson is the author of The Louder Song (2019) and Overcomer (2015), and is a regular contributor to Propel Women. Aubrey and her husband are church planters in the Chicago area. She travels around the country to speak and preach, and is earning her masters degree in Evangelism and Leadership with the Propel Cohort at Wheaton College. You can connect with Aubrey at www.aubreysampson.com or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: @aubsamp.