How to Enjoy a Stress Free Christmas

How to Enjoy a Stress Free Christmas from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

The Good news is, the world did not end on Friday. According to the BBC “Scientists have done their best over the past week to reassure us that the end is far from nigh, but on Friday survivalists and doomsday cultists prepared to take their final stands in forests and on mountain tops around the world.

The latest outpouring of apocalyptic angst mixed with fatalism has been fuelled by the belief that the 5,125-year-old Mayan Long Count calendar predicted that 21 December 2012 would be the earth’s last. In truly British stiff upper lip style, Druids said they expected larger crowds than normal at the annual winter solstice event at Stonehenge.

NASA scientists have said for years that there was no need for alarm. Because of Hollywood films like 2012, NASA has been inundated with calls as the doomsday rumour took grip and the final day approached. To reassure the fearful, NASA produced a four-minute video entitled ‘Why The World Didn’t End Yesterday’ and published it online ahead of time. By Friday it had already been viewed more than five million times.

The video addressed a range of scenarios including, total blackouts, planetary alignments, polar shifts and “a planet or brown dwarf called Nibiru or Planet X that is apparently approaching the Earth and threatening our planet with widespread destruction.” Spokesman Dwayne Brown said “We’re doing all that we can do to let the world know that as far as NASA and science goes, 21 December will be another day,” he said. The good news is – if the world had ended on Friday, we would all be enjoying a really stress free Christmas.
The bad news? The bad news is many of us won’t.

And to make things worse, for A types like me, there is only one shopping day left before Christmas.  You see some of us are more prone to worry than others. In the mid-1950’s , two cardiologists, Friedman and Rosenman remarked that the primary risk factors of Coronary Heart Disease, i.e. hypertension, smoking, and elevated serum cholesterol, did not explain the vast increase of the disease occurring in the preceding 50 years. Their research published in 1974 revealed that personality type was a major contributory factor. They divided people into Type A and Type B. They observed that Type A people were more prone to worry than Type B. Type A’s are three times more likely to have a stroke or a heart attack than Type B, even if we were do the same sort of work and live in similar conditions. Rob Parsons identifies some of the traits of Type A personalities.

“We are very competitive. We compete over everything and find to our embarrassment that when we play board games with small children we are desperately trying to win. We cannot resist a telephone ringing. The worse thing in life that can happen to us is to get to the telephone just as it stops ringing… We swap lanes in traffic jams – even though we know that there is an eternal law that the lane we have just joined will now move more slowly than the lane we have just left. When driving down motorways we are constantly working out complicated mathematical sums: ‘Stoke-on-Trent is ninety miles. If I drive at ninety miles per hour will take me an hour. If I drive at one hundred and eighty miles per hour it will take me half an hour. If I drive at seventy miles per hour … no, that’s too difficult. We also hate stopping for petrol. Why? … because when we pull in at the service station we … see all the cars and lorries we had overtaken going past.”

Remind you of anyone? Whether you are Type A or Type B you are headed for a stress filled Christmas and Jesus has a word for you this morning. Please turn to Matthew 6. Lets see what Jesus has to say about having a stress free Christmas.

The main worry Jesus is concerned with is the worry caused by materialism. This is clear from the context. Verses 24 says “you cannot serve both God and money.”  Verse 25 says “Therefore I tell you…” Remember a ‘therefore’ is always there for a reason. As always, Jesus does not merely deal with the symptom but goes for the root cause. Why are we not to worry? Jesus gives us seven reasons.

1. Worry Misses the Point of Life

Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”  (Matthew 6:25)

Jesus tells us life is far more important than Christmas presents and other trivial matters, such as having enough food and drink for all the guests next week.  Do an analysis of any typical women’s or men’s magazine and you will find the adverts and articles are  preoccupied with the very things Jesus told us not to worry about. Most of the adverts will focus on the body – what to where over it:  what to put on it and what take off from it: how to shape it; make it more attractive; last longer and look younger. The columnist, Penny Perrick, wrote in The Times: ‘I have spent a fair bit of time this week wandering around the sales trying to pretend I wanted something. What I want is true love, long eyelashes and small feet and you can’t buy any of those at Harrods.’ Jesus says that life ‘is more important than these things.’ Worry misses the point of life. The point of life is to know God and enjoy him forever.

2. Worry is Illogical

Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

Worry is actually a slander on God’s character. Worry suggests that God is more interested in his pets than in his children. Birds are kept alive by food provided by nature, such as worms and insects.

They have to spend a lot of time hunting and searching for the food, but it is there to be found. Jesus tells us to look at the birds and realise worry misses the point of life because it is illogical. God will provide.

3. Worry is a Complete Waste of Time

Jesus says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

Worry is illogical because it is pointless. Jesus reminds us we cannot add anything to our life. Worry can only reduce our live by causing things like ulcers or a coronary thrombosis. Most things we worry about never happen anyway. Sir Winston Churchill once said, ‘When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his death bed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.’ Worry misses the point of life because it is illogical and also a waste of time.

4. Worry is Incompatible with Faith

Jesus says, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30)

Faith and fear are like fire and water. In our previous church we had a large 8’x4’ poster board outside.

One of my favourite posters was ‘don’t let worry kill you, let the church help” Another asked ‘Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tyre?’ Faith means trust. Trust in God’s care and provision. To be a Christian is to walk in a trusting relationship with God. But sin interferes with that relationship and leads to worry. Worry misses the point of life, it is illogical, a waste of time and incompatible with faith.

5. Worry is actually Sub-Christian

Jesus says, ‘For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them’ (Matthew 6:32)

Pagans run after food, drink and clothing says Jesus because they are worried they won’t have enough because they don’t trust God. What do people run after in Virginia Water? a bigger house, a newer car, a higher salary, a larger bonus. But all these are pagan says Jesus because they are self-centred and therefore will not ultimately satisfy. A recent article in the Evening Standard about Chris Evans drives this home. It asked, ‘So why isn’t this man laughing?’ He ought to be a happy man. A multi-millionnaire, with cars, homes, girl friends, he nevertheless seemed depressed.

‘It hit me one Sunday morning,’ he explains, ‘that all I ever wanted was the 10 o’clock Saturday night slot on Channel 4 and I’d achieved my life ambition at 27. So what do I do next? ‘You can compare it to climbing Everest. You climb it, and what do you do then? Climb the north face? OK, but then what? Climb the north face with a grand piano over your shoulder? There has to be more to life. Finding out what that might be is the problem I’ve had ever since that Sunday. I haven’t got any closer to working it out.’

Have you got closer? Have you worked it out? When we trust in Jesus and receive him as our Lord and Saviour we are born into his family and become children of God. We can be assured that God knows our every need.

If our loving Father knows our needs we can trust him for them. Not our wants but certainly our needs.  Worry misses the point of life, it is illogical, a waste of time, incompatible with faith and is actually sub-Christian.

6. Worry is Unnecessary

‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (Matthew 6:33).

Worry is actually unnecessary. God promises to provide for our needs if we get our priorities right. Indeed, the Bible is full of such promises. For example, the psalmist says, ‘No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless’ (Psalm 84:11). The apostle Paul also writes, ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ (Romans 8:28). Some stress is necessary – like the way our muscles work. Without some stress, we would collapse into a lump of jelly. God gives us some healthy stress to help us learn to walk with him and hold his hand. He will use adversity to build our character, pruning to increase our fruitfulness. Worry misses the point of life, it is illogical, a waste of time, incompatible with faith, sub-Christian and a complete waste of time.

And if you remain unconvinced, Jesus gives us one more reason.

7. Worry Contradicts Common Sense

Jesus says, ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ (Matthew 6:34)

No, the world did not end on Friday. But you know something? One day this world will end. God promises it.

“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:3-9)

Friday may have been special in the Mayan calendar. But today is special in the Christian calendar. Know what today is? The 4th Sunday in Advent. Advent means? The return of Jesus. God intends us to live one day at a time knowing that today is the only one we are guaranteed. God has given us our lives in units of twenty-four hours and we should take life a day at a time. If we wish to live a fruitful life, live by the biological clock built inside us. Fiona Castle, who faced the stress of her husband Roy’s battle against cancer, wrote a book ‘Give Us This Day’:

“Recently a friend commented to me that many people live their life as though it were a dress rehearsal for the real thing. But in fact, by tonight, we will have given the only performance of ‘today’ that we will ever give. So we have to put our heart, our energy and honesty and sincerity into what we do every day. As a show business family, we find that a very suitable illustration. And every show comes to the end of its run, when we must lay aside the costumes and step off the stage, into another, larger world. So as we pray the prayer Jesus taught us, we ask God to ‘Give us this day’ – thankfully receiving one day at a time – looking to him to sustain us with everything we need, whether it be food, shelter, love of family and friends, or courage and hope to face the future. And at the same time we echo the words of the psalmist: ‘This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it’ (Psalm 118:24).

Seven reasons why we should stop worrying. Worry misses the point of life, it is illogical, a waste of time, incompatible with faith, sub-Christian, a complete waste of time and contradicts common sense. So how do we enjoy a stress free Christmas? Jesus gives us that the answer in 6:33-34. The verse begins “But”. “But seek first…”

Jesus is stressing by way of contrast that to fill the vacuum, to eradicate worry we must focus our minds on something else. Here there are three things to focus on.

1.  Seek God’s Kingdom

Jesus calls us to a higher, nobler ambition – to seek his kingdom. We are to seek his rule and reign in our lives, in our marriages, in our home, in our family and in our lifestyle. We are also to seek it in the lives of others – our friends, relations, neighbours, work colleagues and in the community. Our 2020 Vision expresses our shared conviction of what God’s kingdom rule will look like in Virginia Water. Do you share that vision? If you have not got a copy pick one up in the corridor. Read it, meditate on the biblical passages it contains and commit yourself in 2013 to help turn our vision of God’s kingdom into a reality. Seek God’s Kingdom.

2. Seek God’s Righteousness

We seek God’s kingdom in God’s way. With God’s ‘righteousness’ in our lives and community. Our Church has a set of ‘Distinctive Values’ that explain how we will realise our vision and calling.

There are many examples of men and women who, in God’s strength, have made a profound impact on society because of their passion for God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. For example, William Wilberforce, as a Christian Member of Parliament, devoted his entire life, 45 years to abolish slavery. The Act of Parliament was passed in July 1833, three days before he died.  Last week I was in Baghdad for a Middle East conference calling for an end to child prisoners in Israeli jails. What are you passionate about? What is God calling you to do, to make a difference in 2013? Doing God’s will won’t necessarily be stress free. It may even seriously shorten your life. But Jesus promises that if we get our priorities right and our ambitions in perspective, “all these things will be given to you as well” (i.e. our basic needs provided for). Jesus promises here that if we take on his priorities and make their fulfilment our greatest ambition, then he will provide us with everything we need to do so. Everything.Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

3. Seek God’s Son

Christmas is about the greatest gift you and I could ever receive. The gift of a Saviour.
A Saviour who came to rescue us from stress, from ourselves, from sin and death and judgement, to forgive us, to live in us, to be our friend and give us eternal life. Because there was nothing we could ever do to deserve that gift, we must accept it humbly and gratefully and share his love with others in practicval tangible ways. Christmas is all about what God gave us. And what we can now give to others. Maybe you will just give to someone your time, your heart, a much-needed smile, a helping hand, a watchful eye, a listening ear. Ask God for a way to give to each person who means the world to you. And to others who might not mean anything to anyone. And you will be giving God the greatest gift He could receive….your desire to be more like His Son. ‘Seek first my Father’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’. This is how to enjoy a stress free Christmas, stop worrying and start living like Jesus.

Lets pray.