Summary: The holiday seacon can become very hectic and stressful, and you need to know where you can turn to for relief from the back pains of stress!
The Christmas season is upon us. For there to be so much to celebrate, December often becomes the most stressful time of the year. People run here and there trying to beat the clock to get the sales, complete their shopping lists, and get their decorations up. You have to wonder just how far we have removed ourselves from the real spirit of Christmas by getting sucked into all of the hustle bustle around the holidays. It’s a documented fact that as we move into the winter months a lot of people get sick with colds and flues. A lot of it has to do with the fact that our resistance is down and our immune system is trying to work overtime. The cold and pain relief aisles in stores are usually full this time of the year. How much pain do we bring on ourselves? I heard last week that a new study revealed that during the Christmas season people lose and average of 3 hours of sleep per week because of the hectic schedules they keep. With that as an average, you know that many people lose even more than that. That eventually takes a toll on the body. What exactly causes the pain and how can get relief? That’s going to be the basis for a series of messages I’m going to share this month simply entitled Holiday Pain Relief. Today we’re going to look at back pains and see the need we have for relief from stress.
When we get stressed over the holidays, a lot of experiences we have that should be fun and enjoyable become a pain in the back. Just like a lot of the other myths about Christmas that we perpetuate, it’s a myth that if we ignore our pain it will go away. Does that really happen at any other time of the year? Why should we expect it to be so at Christmas? Pain doesn’t just go away. You have to deal with it. Another myth specifically related to stress is that other people “stress me out.” You can push the blame anywhere you want for the stress you feel around the holidays – on other people, on your budget, on your work schedule, on your lack of money, on your kids, on your spouse, on your in-laws, on the crowded stores, on the traffic, etc. Other people, things, or situations are not the cause of your stress. It’s your response to those people, things, or situations that brings on the stress. So, who’s really to blame for the pain?
I want us to look together in Matthew 2 this morning at a familiar passage that is shared around Christmas. It’s the account of the magi, or wise men, who visit the Christ child. Though it’s a familiar passage, I don’t want you to miss the contrasting responses to the holidays that we see in it. Let’s stand and read verses 1-12. Did you notice someone who was stressed out over the holidays in this passage? Who was it? Herod. Look at verse 3 again.
“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3). Now, old King Herod was a mean ol’ soul, and a mean ol’ soul was he. Modern scholars typically agree that Herod suffered from depression and paranoia throughout his life. He always felt that someone was out to get him –to usurp his throne. As a result, his stress level no doubt increased. He suffered from the proverbial back pains brought on by stress because he was always looking over his shoulder to see who was ready to stab him. Who was to blame for his stress? He was.
I want us to go a little deeper here this morning, though. Let’s get to the heart of the matter. What really causes a stressful life? What really caused Herod’s stress and what causes ours? Though centuries separate us, I think you’ll see a parallel – if you’ll be honest. The bottom line is that stress is caused by our rebellion to God – when we put others things above the one true King. That’s what really got Herod down. Let’s consider some of the signs that Herod was “stressed out over the holidays.” The first sign is that he was disturbed by the truth.
“Disturbed by the truth.” The magi, or wise men, came seeking the “king of the Jews” in v. 2. What was Herod’s response when he heard that? Verse 3 says he was what? Disturbed. Why was he so disturbed? Because he held the title of the person the magi were looking for – king – yet they weren’t looking for him. Herod knew that the Jews already resented him as a Gentile King, if you will, as the Jews did not accept Rome’s right to choose their king for them. Of course, what happened in Jerusalem when Herod became disturbed? Everyone else followed suit! The Jews knew his tendencies to have people killed when he felt threatened. They probably thought, “Oh no, who’s next?” They knew when Herod wasn’t happy, no one was happy. So, Herod was disturbed by the truth of the message the magi had brought with them – there was a new king in town who would reign in an everlasting kingdom.