Saturday, November 19, 2011

How About Less Christmas Stress             
Luke 10:38-42                            

Whether you like it our not and whether you are prepared or not, the Christmas Season is upon us! Black Friday is coming! Ladies, it is a scientific fact that shopping is more stressful for men than for women. According to a report in “The Oregonian,” British psychologist David Lewis found proof that shopping is hazardous to men’s health. Testing volunteers ages 22-79 by sending them out Christmas shopping; he recorded blood pressure rates that “you’d expect to see in a fighter pilot going into combat.” In the same test, only one in four women showed any significant signs of stress from shopping.

“A few days before Christmas two men in Florida decided to go sailing while their wives went Christmas shopping. As the men were out sailing a terrible storm arose and they had great difficulty keeping their boat under control. While they maneuvered their way back to land their boat became grounded on a sandbar. They had to jump overboard to push with all their might trying to get the boat into deeper water. As they were straining against the storm, the wind was blowing terribly, the waves were rushing upon them and they were soaking wet and knee deep in sandy mud. Then one of the two looked at his buddy and said, ‘You know it sure beats Christmas shopping.’ ” 

What should be one of the most rewarding times of the year for us, a time which should bring us joy and warm our hearts, instead often brings stress and heartburn, headaches and depression. In fact, many are dreading instead of looking forward to the days leading up to Christmas.
The stress that plagues people at this time of the year is rooted in three basic sources; TIME (getting everything done), MONEY (paying for it) and EMOTIONS (conflict with family and past painful memories that resurface).

If you stop to think about it, stress is nothing new at Christmas. The events surrounding the very first Christmas were filled with an incredible amount of stress. Observe:
-Angels start showing up, scaring the living daylights out of people. 
-Mary is pregnant out of wedlock. 
-Joseph, Mary’s husband to be, wants to quietly break-off the marriage. 
-Joseph is told that Mary is carrying the Son of God and it is up to him to care for them. 
-Joseph, along with every other head of a household, is compelled by law to return to the city of his birth for the census. 
-Joseph finds himself on the road with a pregnant woman; no rest stops, no restaurants, no comforts (and there's NO donkey found anywhere in the Bible story for Mary to ride!).
-It's a definite possibility that Mary's mood was not the best, by the time they arrived in Bethlehem. 
-When they finally arrive at Bethlehem Joseph discovers there are no vacancies and he is going to have to tell his pregnant wife that they are going to stay in a barn (or stable, or cave).

I submit to you that there was a lot of stress associated with the first Christmas!

Let's direct our attention to a story recorded in Luke 10:38-42. It may seem like an unusual choice given what we’ve been talking about but you'll soon see why.
“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. (39) And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. (40) But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." (41) And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. (42) "But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (NKJV)
Poor Martha understood what stress was, rushing around trying to get everything ready – after all, Jesus was in the house! Martha surely represents every person, men included, who are so worked up about getting everything done that needs to be done so that they can “enjoy Christmas.”

Stress can result from anything that: Annoys you, threatens you, worries you, hurries you, angers you, or frustrates you.

Some of the symptoms of stress are:
• Frequent headaches.
• Irregular heartbeats.
• Getting dizzy or light headed.
• Indigestion or nausea.
• Difficulty failing or staying asleep.
• Waking up tired.
• Anger or irritability.

Martha was probably familiar with these symptoms.

I think that we can see some of the traits of the stress-prone person in the life of Martha. Perhaps you see some of these characteristics reflected in your own life.
1. Plans day unrealistically
2. Always in a hurry
3. Makes no plan for relaxation
4. Feels guilty about doing anything other than work
5. Sees unforeseen problem as a setback or disaster
6. Is always thinking about several other things when working.
7. Feels the need to be recognized and overextends themselves because of this.

That sure sounds like Martha. Does it sound like you?
In today’s text we will see four simple principles for overcoming Holiday stress.

How Too Overcome Holiday Stress

Set Realistic Expectations For Yourself

One translation of verse forty reads, “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” That sounds like our lives sometimes. Like Martha we can get so distracted by what we consider the many necessary things that we miss the main point. By focusing on those things of lesser importance we miss what is the most important.
Notice what Jesus tells Martha in verse forty-two, “Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.” What Martha had chosen was not bad or evil. All the work that she was doing was good, but not all she was doing was necessary. Perhaps all of the preparations you have planned for Christmas are good, but are they all necessary? The thing about Martha’s predicament is that no one had assigned her all these duties; she was the one who had decided what “had to be done.” If she had too much to do, it was not simply because her sister Mary was not helping her, perhaps it was because her plans were too elaborate.
Jesus told Martha, “only one thing is needed” and that one thing was spending relationship time with Jesus. We must not get so wrapped up in our preparations for the Holidays that we have little or (God forbid) no time for Christ.
The best thing you can do for yourself as we enter this Christmas season is, “Determine what is really stressing you.” For example, if it is really stressing you out, do you really have to have that special dessert that takes an entire afternoon to make? Do you absolutely have to decorate the house as elaborately as you did last year? Do you have to spend so much money that you’re still paying for Christmas presents next May?

Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself and:

Remember Why You Are Doing What You Are Doing

Martha got so busy serving Jesus she forgot to spend time with Jesus. We can get so busy with our preparations for Christmas, and our participation in Christmas that we forget to spend time with Christ.
I want to share a poem that I think says it better than I can, entitled, Can This Be Christmas?

“What’s all this hectic rush and worry?
Where go these crowds who run and scurry?
Why all the lights—the Christmas trees?
The jolly “fat man,” tell me please!

Why, don’t you know? This is the day
For parties and for fun and play;
Why this is Christmas!

So this is Christmas, do you say?
But where is Christ this Christmas day?
Has He been lost among the throng?
His voice drowned out by empty song?

No. He’s not here—you’ll find Him where
Some humble soul now kneels in prayer,
Who knows the Christ of Christmas.

But see the many aimless thousands
Who gather on this Christmas Day,
Whose hearts have never yet been opened,
Or said to Him, “Come in to stay.”

In countless homes the candles burning,
In countless hearts expectant yearning
For gifts and presents, food and fun,
And laughter till the day is done.

But not a tear of grief or sorrow
For Him so poor He had to borrow
A crib, a colt, a boat, a bed
Where He could lay His weary head.

I’m tired of all this empty celebration,
Of feasting, drinking, recreation;
I’ll go instead to Calvary.

And there I’ll kneel with those who know
The meaning of that manger low,
And find the Christ—this Christmas.

I leap by faith across the years
To that great day when He appears
The second time, to rule and reign,
To end all sorrow, death, and pain.
In endless bliss we then shall dwell
With Him who saved our souls from hell,
And worship Christ—not Christmas!

[M.R. DeHaan, M.D., Founder, Radio Bible]

Remember Why You Are Doing What You Are Doing and:

Don't Wait Too Long To Put Your Hope In Jesus Christ

Christmas is a spiritual time for some but for others it’s a time which reminds them that something is missing in their life. Christmas shows them like no other time of the year does, the spiritual emptiness they feel.

“Back in the days when service station attendant actually filled your car for you, a preacher waited to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him at the service station. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump. “Preacher,” said the young man, “I am sorry about the wait. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute too get ready for a long trip!” The preacher, chuckled, “I know what you mean. It’s the same in my work.”

If you haven’t obeyed the gospel please do it today!

Don’t Wait Too Long to Place Your Hope in Jesus Christ and: 

Decide To Do Something This Christmas To Make A Difference

•Mend a quarrel, tell someone that may not know, how they have blessed your life.
•Forgive someone who has treated you wrong.
•Turn away wrath with a soft answer.
•Visit someone who is lonely.
•Surprise everyone and apologize if you were wrong.
•Be especially kind to someone with whom you work.
•Give your gifts this Christmas as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation, or reservation, or hidden meaning.

(I first preached this sermon December 5th 2004. Some of the content is borrowed from other fine preachers.)

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