– Escaping the seasonal madness

“And Jesus said to them, The Sabbath was made on account and for the sake of man, not man for the Sabbath; So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27-28.

The countdown has begun. Actually, for most people, it began moments after packing up their unfinished Christmas dinner and clearing up the leftovers. The plan for the next one begins to form in their minds as they look forward to yet another Christmas. On the day itself, a visitor to Britain would be forgiven to think that this is a sparsely populated country as most people keep indoors and spend valuable quality time with their families. For some people, it actually is the only time they get to see each other; hence their wanting to spend as much time as possible with each other before going their separate ways for the next three hundred and sixty something days.

Just days before each Christmas, you would be forgiven to think that people are possessed by a spirit of purpose as we jostle with each other in our quest to cross off every item on our Christmas gifts lists. The only question that gets asked at this time is have you finished your Christmas shopping? It is no surprise that businesses look forward to this bumper time, as it always promises great profit for them, thanks to the increased commercialisation of this festival. It sometimes is a struggle to see Jesus, whose birthday we all are purportedly celebrating in our fervour to stuff ourselves until we become too drowsy to think straight. It is also a time for burying the hatchet, at least temporarily, as we share drinks, attend office parties, wish each other well and just enjoy ourselves, only to dig them up again once the festive season was over. You can’t but wonder, is this what Christmas is about?

I hope I am not making you uncomfortable with my seemingly contrarian view. The simple truth is that like most people, I too look forward to celebrating Christmas with friends and family. Any holiday that gives respite and an opportunity to recharge our batteries in our hyperactive society is always welcome. Any holiday that gives busy families the opportunity to be together in the same room must surely be welcome in a society where the only times some children see their parents are on weekends. They are usually out before they wake up and are asleep by the time they get back from work.

So, what am I going on about? The lyrics of one of Adrian Snell’s songs say that ‘Everybody is moving in the same direction like they don’t have a choice’. My purpose and only reason for this article is to help you understand that you do have a choice, not only about Christmas, but at this time especially about Christmas. Like any entrenched tradition, Christmas has taken on a life of its own and people are being swept away by its demand on their lives. It seems as if as a nation, we now live for Christmas rather than the Christ we should be celebrating. Christmas has gradually metamorphosed from being an obedient servant into a giant tyrannical monster that dominates our lives. We live for it, work for it, get into debt for it and do just about anything for it except what we should be doing about it. While for a few it is an enjoyable holiday, for an increasing number of people, it is becoming something to dread as they think of the long list of gifts to buy and try to find ways to further squeeze their already dry overdrawn accounts of money that they do not have in order to keep Johnny and Estelle happy.

The simple truth you and I must keep in mind is that traditions are a necessary part of life. They represent our way of dealing with the complexities of our environment. Traditions can be intrinsically good when properly handled, but can also hurt us if we allow them to get a life of their own and do not put them in proper perspective. So, whatever its shape or form, tradition can easily become a harsh master but will also function as an obedient servant. It depends on who is in control and this was what Jesus was alluding to in the above Scripture passage.

The Sabbath was originally meant as a day of rest and enjoyment for God’s people. They were free to do whatever they wanted during the preceding six days of the week, but were commanded to rest and cease work on the seventh as they fellowshipped together and enjoyed God’s presence. With time, other laws were added by the Jewish authorities, which ultimately transformed the very purpose of the Sabbath and made it into something burdensome for the very people God had intended to bless with rest. In a nutshell, commonsense was pushed aside as the monster of human tradition was allowed to dominate people’s lives. It got to the point where you were not allowed to heal on a Sabbath, which wasn’t what God originally intended and was now at cross-purpose with God’s original plan.

Jesus’ statement above was a concerted attempt to set the record straight and remind people that Sabbath was meant to serve man and not the other way round. It was meant to enhance the standard of living and transform life from being drudgery to becoming a joy. God’s original plan has not changed either for Christmas or any other man-made traditions that is making life more difficult for people. God’s yoke is always easy and His burden is light. So, don’t allow the burden of other people’s expectations to push you into debt or force you to spend money you do not have. Christmas, like any other tradition is meant to enable and not deter you from fulfilling God’s purpose for your life. It is your servant. So, stay in control.

So as you prepare for this Christmas, have you ever thought about asking the Lord of Christmas what you should be doing as you celebrate His birthday? Have you ever bothered to ask Him what He would like as a gift from you this Christmas? After all, if you are invited to a birthday party, you always take a gift along with you for the celebrant. I have no doubt that the tempo of shopping will keep increasing until the last second before Christmas day. I am sure that the pressure to get everything ready as we shop like there is no tomorrow will keep us busy until Christmas Eve, before everything goes eerily quiet as the day finally dawns. My question for you is who is in control – the commercial interests that seek to grow fat on your misery, your family, as they demand for what they have come to expect, your colleagues as they pressure you to fit in with the crowd or Jesus, who is the Lord of Christmas? Why not take some time to really think about what you will be doing in preparation for Christmas? As you do so, let your point of reference be the fact that Christmas, like the Sabbath or any other kind of man-made tradition was made for man and not the other way round. It will always be a good servant but a bad master. So, keep in control and by the way HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS.