The season known in North America for being one of the most stressful times of the year is upon us: Christmas! In the rehab hospital where I worked, we would always get a spike in numbers of stroke survivors following Christmas. In addition, more people fall and break bones around Christmas time, more people have heart attacks, and it is becoming uncommon to meet someone who has not lost a loved one during previous Christmas seasons.

Wait! Isn't Christmas supposed to be a celebration of the birth of the One who brings stress-relief?

Isn't this what was prophesied about Him? "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6 ESV).

Wasn't the fact that Jesus is our peace even declared by the angels to the Shepherds in the fields on the night Jesus was born? "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'" (Luke 2:8-14 ESV).

If Jesus came to this earth to be our peace, then why has the season where we are supposed to be celebrating the birth of the "Prince of Peace" become known as one of the most stressful times of the year?

Perhaps it is because we've taken Christ out of Christmas. Or maybe it is because we've allowed paganism to cloud our minds. Or it might even be related to the fact that we've fallen into the blinding traps of materialism and commercialism.

I would have to say there is significant supporting evidence that despite the best efforts to keep Jesus at the centre of Christmas, even the most ardent followers of Christ are often guilty of falling into these dangerous traps. But are these the real reasons the Christmas season has become so stressful?

We could go into a deep discussion at this point about whether or not Christians should be celebrating Christmas, but be it right or wrong, is the celebration of Christmas truly the root issue at hand?

You see, although paganism, materialism and commercialism are critically dangerous traps that Christians do fall into, I'm wondering if these are but mere symptoms of a far deeper problem: Although we know Jesus is our Prince of Peace, we don't tend to allow Him to be our peace; not just at Christmastime, but at any time of the year!

In His great pastoral prayer, Jesus declares that He has left us His peace: "Peace I leave with you..." (John 14:27a ESV). He says He has given it to us: "...my peace I give to you." (John 14:27b ESV).

Thus, we already have Jesus' peace; but does this mean we have taken it as our own?

It is so much the human tendency to not use the things we've been given. So often I have bought things for my kids that I know they need; but when I go into their rooms months later, I see my unopened gifts on the shelf. They simply do not always see the importance of using it, or sometimes they just forget it is there. It is no different with Jesus' gift of peace. We cannot benefit from it if we do not use it.

In the wording of His next words to His disciples, Jesus indicates that peace is a choice: "...Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." (John 14:27d ESV). The use of "let not" would indicate that we have the choice to either be stressed out or to accept the peace Jesus has already left for us.

I would suggest that the celebration of Christ's birth has become one of the most stressful times of year because we have chosen to let our hearts be troubled and afraid by not accepting Jesus' peace--not just with the busyness associated with Christmas, but all the time! I propose that if we were in the habit of accepting Jesus' peace during all of our troubled situations, then it wouldn't matter what stress comes up in our lives, we would simply accept Jesus' invitation to give Him our burdens and experience His rest: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28 ESV). We would choose to follow Paul's excellent advice: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Phil. 4:6 ESV).

Let's make Jesus happy by accepting His gift of peace, by making it a habit of giving Him our burdens and of attacking stressful times with prayer and thanksgiving--at ALL times! When we do, we will truly be embracing this vitally important gift of peace that Jesus came to this earth to leave with us.

In His love,
Lyn

Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.