It is time for me to admit the truth: I don’t like the “Holiday Season.” While most of America engages in traditions of greed and gluttony, I just want to be able to do what I enjoy. But, it feels like the world won’t leave me alone. Each year, I try to have a better attitude, but I always end up more annoyed and aggravated than the year before. This year, I have been wondering how much of my dislike for the season is because of my personality, and how much stems from depression.
I know that some of my holiday preferences are attributable to my mother, through both genetics and influence. From her I got the inability to listen to the same music over and over, every year, without having a nervous breakdown. She is not sentimental about specific days of the year, and is certainly not one to make a fuss because the calendar tells her to. She also raised my sisters and me to hate Santa Clause and other secular distractions. Still, I know that depression increases my aversion to the season. I want to honor the people I care about, but this means agreeing to do things that I don’t feel like doing. The social engagements drain me, and the interruptions to my routine cause anxiety.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
As I thought about my holiday angst, I came to a shocking realization. My enjoyment of the holidays declined after I started working at a Christian organization. If I remember correctly, secular workplaces had the food, decorations, gift exchanges, and all of the usual trappings, but unbelievers seemed more accepting of me. There weren’t expectations that I enjoy the same traditions as everyone else. And while there was more food around than usual, it did not approach the quantities of food that collect in a Christian work place.
Controlling my intake of sweets is a year-round struggle. I love chocolate, cookies, cake, donuts, brownies, and the like. Work is a fierce battleground because sharing food is the preferred method of demonstrating love. In December, my battle with overeating turns into nuclear war. There are so many sweets in the office, that I could eat much more than I should, and not make a noticeable dent in the supply. In years past, I would fall to this temptation. All of the discipline I gained to become a Weight Watchers success story was no match for spending eight hours a day with access to a buffet of goodies. I wouldn’t make it two hours before I was overeating. I wouldn’t be able to eat my lunch, and I would spend the afternoon feeling sick and angry with myself. I finally had to challenge myself to avoid the food entirely. I figured out that once I give in and get a taste, I lose control. I have had several successful seasons of not allowing myself to eat any food at work other than what I bring myself for lunch and a snack. Success doesn’t come easy, and people don’t understand. I love my job, but I often dread going to work and engaging in this fight.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
Dreading going to work is one thing, but what makes me truly sad is when I don’t enjoy church. I know that the worship leaders are trying to make people happy by singing the same hymns that have been sung so often that the words have lost their meaning. Talented Christian song writers have written great, new songs that are all but ignored, while the old Christmas hymns are treated as if they are what the angels actually sang when they announced the birth. My church has a new worship leader this year, so I am cautiously optimistic. I am thankful for a pastor who doesn’t get too soft around Christmas. I don’t go to church to get a warm, fuzzy feeling. I want to be taught God’s word.
What I most want to do this time of year is help with Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. This has become my favorite tradition. It is a joy to be part of sharing the love of Jesus with impoverished children around the world. Every year, my sister and I have a goal of filling more shoeboxes than the year before. And, we are privileged to live close to the Southern California Processing Center. I spent a day there, this week, and all of the depression and aggravation of the season were gone as I worked alongside other believers to prepare shoeboxes for shipment overseas. I am going back at least one more time. I caught myself feeling selfish for worrying that other things might interfere with being able to go to the Processing Center. But isn’t it okay to be jealous for the joy of serving Christ?
I hope that I don’t ask much from other people. I want to keep my life free from the kind of obligated busyness that prevents so many people from enjoying Christmas. I don’t usually enjoy parties, but there are other things that make me happy. I want to buy gifts for family, but I will not spend a lot of money. I plan to enjoy Christmas sweets in moderation, on my own terms, and to avoid traditional Christmas music as much as possible. Whether it is depression or personality that most drives me to be this way, I am ready to be done apologizing for how I choose to celebrate Christmas.