“3 You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”
I’m thinking today and praying for friends for whom the ‘holiday season’ may be difficult this year. Some friends of ours just received very difficult news that will make this Thanksgiving a very hard one for them, and my heart is hurting for them and I’m praying for them and their family today. The holidays are difficult for many people for a wide variety of reasons, and today I’m thinking a little about that.
Here’s something I’m thinking through a bit. I’m increasingly not sure how good Facebook is for us, or, at least, for me. I use Facebook as my example because that’s the particular social media vice I find most addictive and where I find myself struggling at the moment. On one hand I have really enjoyed how it enables me to reconnect with old friends and stay in touch with friends we’ve made during our many moves from state to state as a family.
On the other hand, Facebook can also foster hurt feelings, anger, jealousy, misunderstandings, and frustrations, if we aren't careful with it. It can be a little like a year-long, in-your-face, happy, happy, happy Christmas letter on steroids. You know what I mean by the “Christmas letter” don’t you? Do you fight false feelings of inadequacy when reading certain Christmas letters every year, or is it just me? Anyway, on Facebook, you either have the happy, happy, happy holiday talk or you might also have the complainers who never seem to be happy about anything. That can affect the mood as you scroll through, too. And the thing is, it can make it very difficult not to feel a desire to distance yourself from friends who, if we weren’t posting EVERY thought out there on the news feed for all to see, we wouldn’t know QUITE so much about each other and wouldn’t be so tempted to let our attitudes about people and circumstances be bent out of shape nearly so easily. Then there are the downers who are miserable and feel like they need to lecture Facebook world on how insensitive we all are for being happy about the holidays and talking about it on Facebook.
I know, for me, I’m completely dreading the impending ‘Elf on the Shelf’ daily updates that will be ensuing and flooding my news feed any day now, but if that brings joy to my friends they have every right to post them, and I have the option of blocking things if I don’t want to see it all day. (I find dolls in general creepy, but that elf moving around the house watching kids is creepy beyond creepy to me.) Anyway, I have been thinking about how hard it probably is for people to read the happy, happy, happy status updates and days of thankfulness when, for them, the holidays are a difficult or lonely time. It can sometimes be irritating even when you like the holidays, generally, but for those for whom the holidays bring genuinely painful memories, I’m praying today.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t be happy about the holidays or that we shouldn’t share our happy thoughts and posts. Not at all. I think we all benefit from sharing the joys, even the stuff we might not like as well as others. I’m just thinking about how hard this time of year is for some of my friends.
Our culture tends to mess up Thanksgiving and Christmas royally by getting our priorities out of whack. We have this tendency to do what Clark Griswold does in ‘Christmas Vacation’ and build up the perfect holiday in our minds, and when that ideal doesn’t materialize, we are disappointed, disillusioned and depressed. We buy into the commercialized and secularized view of the holidays, trample each other at Black Friday sales just hours after supposedly taking a moment to be grateful for what we have (by the way, I WILL NOT be shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday - I loathe crowds, hate shopping even on a regular day, and there is NOTHING I want or need badly enough to support that nonsense), and it isn’t good for us. It breeds a subtle discontent in us that nothing in this world can ever satisfy. Overly sentimentalized sappy secular Christmas songs drive me nuts, too, and I’ve mentioned before my loathing for the movie “The Polar Express” so that’s all I’ll say about that now.
Another thing I see on Facebook at this time of year that I find irritating is that we build up this secularized version of Christmas then get all smugly upset when stores don’t properly ‘honor’ Christmas. Why do some cultural Christians feel like we have to make it a big deal every year whether or not anyone says, “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”? Why do we have to talk about a perceived ‘war on Christmas’ every year? I saw some chart the AFA has out that rates retailers on how Christmas-friendly they are or are not. Oh, please, just stop it. We come off looking so silly. Just be decent to people while you’re out shopping and get on with your celebration. Boycotting stores over whether or not they use the word Christmas is just SO not where our focus should be. In a world where people are dying and on their way to hell, does it honestly further the gospel to complain and rant and to boycott companies about Christmas? Aren’t there other more important fronts on which we should engage? I don’t expect a secular world to care much about the real meaning of Christmas, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t do much good for us to be jerks in insisting they use just the right words to honor our holiday. They don’t even get it right when they do, so just get on with your own celebration of it, shop or don’t shop as you see fit, and share your joy in that for all to see.
So, for me and my house, what keeps me sane during the holidays, is to focus less and less on the secularized version of the ‘perfect’ holiday and to think more about the Cross. To think more about Jesus, and His grace in saving us from our sin, in reconciling us to God. And if I have to limit my time on Facebook in order to keep in check my sinful bent toward becoming wrongly, sinfully irritated and agitated, that just might be wise.