“The Holiday Season Stress Factor”
Intro: I was reading this past week an article titled, "Christmas Pressures." In it they gave these statistics.
· 80% of the families interviewed (80 families in all) experienced stress at Christmas.
· 83% of those interviewed experienced difficulties meeting the extra expenditure that Christmas brings.
· Over 50% of the mothers interviewed felt used by husbands, partners, and children, when expectations to cook, clean and generally make sure everyone has a good time is left to them and them alone with little support.
Transition: In the holiday season our problem in America is we have too much. Too much shopping to do, too many people to buy gifts for, and too many groups of people to share holiday get-togethers with. We end up spreading ourselves too thin and getting stressed out over all we must get done in such a short amount of time. In the holiday season we need to be careful not to get so busy that we leave God out. We’re in such a hurry at Christmas time that we write x-mas and leave Christ out of his own birthday celebration.
When I think of the holiday pressures we have I always think about Mary and Martha. Martha is a classic example of how we undertake projects for God with good intentions and blow them all out of proportion. Sometimes the things we set out to honor God with we end up dishonoring God with.
“MARTHA OPENED HERE HOM TO HIM” This was a dinner that Martha was intending to honor Jesus with. The whole purpose of this get together was to spend time with Jesus. Martha wanted everything to be perfect for this occasion so she worked so hard that she became “DISTRACTED” from the purpose of this occasion. What exactly was she distracted from? Jesus. It’s so easy during Thanksgiving and Christmas to focus totally on the event and everyone’s enjoyment and push Jesus out of the picture.
Mary on the other hand had given her full attention to the Lord. So much so that she wasn’t helping Martha with the cooking and preparing of the meal. Can’t you see Martha stomping around her house banging the dishes and crinkling her brow at Mary every time she walked by her at the feet of Jesus? And what about Jesus? He just sat there and talked on and on encouraging Mary’s behavior. This served to make Martha even angrier. She storms into the room and cuts loose on Jesus. “LORD, DON’T YOU CARE THAT MY SISTER HAS LEFT ME TO DO THE WORK BY MYSELF? TELL HER TO HELP ME!” Martha who set out to honor Jesus is now bossing Him. Stress can cause us to have a critical spirit. Now the get-together that Martha had planned and worked so hard for was being destroyed by no other than herself. We can relate to Martha can’t we? We work so hard to make everything so that everyone can enjoy themselves and then when they have such a good time that they don’t offer to help us we get made because all we do is end up working while they have all the fun.
Illust: In his book FOLK PSALMS OF FAITH, Ray Stedman tells of an experience H.A. Ironside had in a crowded restaurant. Just as Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited his to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, "Do you have a headache?" Ironside replied, "No, I don’t." The other man asked, "Well, is there something wrong with your food?" Ironside replied, "No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat."
The man said, "Oh, you’re one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don’t have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!"
Ironside said, "Yes, you’re just like my dog. That’s what he does too!"
Ray Stedman, Folk Psalms of Faith.
“YOU ARE WORRIED AND UPSET ABOUT MANY THINGS.” Notice Jesus said “MANY THINGS.” It wasn’t that she was just upset about the dinner and Mary helping her it was much more than one thing. That’s how stress affects us things build and build until finally we explode. “BUT ONE THING IS NEEDED.” The one thing needed, the one thing God desires of us is time spent with Him. Mary chooses intimate time with Jesus over service for Him and the Lord says it was the right choice. Our service for God should be as a result of our personal relationship with Him. Many times we get it backwards and think our service is more important than our relationship with Him. It’s like a father who works all the time to provide for his family. He doesn’t have any time for his wife and kids as a result and justifies himself by saying the reason he works so much is for his family. When underneath all the words his real reason for work is achievement, money and affluence. His family would much rather have his time than his money. God would much rather have our hearts than our hands.
Illust: Then, there are the words of Matthew Henry who wrote in his diary after being attacked by thieves and robbed of his money: "Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed."
It has been estimated that two-thirds of the world’s population go to bed hungry every night. Whereas we who live in America, with its overflowing prosperity and production have so much for which we should thank God. Dare we sit at our Thanksgiving tables without humbly praising and thanking God for all of His blessings?
“AND IT WILL NOT BE TAKEN AWAY FROM HER” everything we have in the world is temporary with the exception of our soul. The one thing that can’t be taken away from us is our relationship with God. This is the choice we must make this holiday season. The choice to put the Lord right in the middle of our holidays and honor Him with spending time and giving our hearts to Him.
Conclusion: There is an old man who makes his way to a Florida pier every week with a bucket full of shrimp. The shrimp isn’t to fish with; it’s for the sea gulls. His reason for coming every week is to say “thank you.” His name was Eddie Rickenbacker. If you were alive in October 1942, you probably remember the day that he was reported missing at sea. He had been sent on a mission to deliver a message to Gen. Douglas MacArthur. With a handpicked crew in a B-17 known as the “Flying Fortress,” he set off across the South Pacific. Somewhere the crew became lost, the fuel ran out, and the plane went down. All eight crewmembers escaped into the life rafts. They battled the weather, the water, the sharks, and the sun. But most of all, they battled the hunger. After eight days, their rations were gone; they ran out of options, it would take a miracle for them to survive.
And a miracle occurred.
After an afternoon devotional service, the men said a prayer and tried to rest. As Rickenbacker was dozing with his hat over his eyes, something landed on his head. He would later say that he knew it was sea gull. He didn’t know how he knew; he just knew. That gull meant food…. if he could catch it. And he did.
The flesh was eaten. The intestines were used as fish bait. And the crew survived.
What was a sea gull doing hundreds of miles away from land? Only God knows. But whatever the reason, Rickenbacker was thankful. As a result, every Friday evening this old captain walked to the pier, his bucket full of shrimp and his heart full of thanks.
We’d be wise to do the same. We’ve much in common with Rickenbacker. We, too, were saved by a Sacrificial Visitor.
We, too, were rescued by One who journeyed far from only God knows where.
And we, like the captain, have every reason to look into the sky…. and worship.
(In the Eye of the Storm, Max Lucado)