Gilland: Wishing you a peaceful Christmas week

Family in front of Christmas tree

We sing the lyric every Christmas season – “Peace on the earth, good will to men…” But for many, this week holds anything but peace and good will. Most any counseling service will tell you that more people will suffer from depression, anxiety and emotional distress this week than at any other time of the year.

Why is that? Many believe that personal family tragedies such as the death of a loved one, or even divorce plays into the picture. Add to that unhealthy comparisons to other people’s posts on social media, and you have a recipe for a less than bright holiday season.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (ESV). 

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There is not a human around that hasn’t had their hopes dashed by one thing or another. To be disappointed is a mere fact of life. But we are not without hope, and parents can aid their children greatly, helping them avoid these common pitfalls and distractions that can be associated with this otherwise happy and joyful season.

I recently had the privilege of talking to Dr. James Spencer, president of the D.L. Moody Center in Northfield, Massachusetts. He offered some wonderful advice that will help parents and grandparents, singles and children—and everyone.

Consider these three simple steps that Dr. Spencer puts into practice in his own family:

First, remind your children (and yourself) of the true Christmas story, the birth of Jesus and the reality of that first advent. There is no way to completely articulate the importance of Christ’s incarnation (meaning his coming as a human) and his ultimate sacrifice on the cross. Keeping the historical reason for the season firmly before our families will go a long way toward combatting consumerism.

Second, make the quality choice to be peaceful – in spite of that natural draw toward anxiety and stress that we all experience. Again, going to the Bible, the psalmist declared that he had “…calmed and quieted his soul…” (Psalm 131:2). What great advice for us all. 

Third, and so important: Model that decision to be peaceful and calm in your conversations and interactions with your children. Be aware that they are like sponges, watching our attitudes, and every move we make—even when we would prefer they didn’t! 

A preacher once said, “More is caught than taught.” That is so true with our children. When they see their parents responding with peace and joy, it will be a game-changer in their own lives.

This is a wonderful week, and that is true regardless of the circumstances that we each face. Let’s make that quality decision to enjoy it, to be calm, and peaceful in our souls. Have a great Christmas week!

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