Make the most of the holidays

Published 1:12 pm Wednesday, November 27, 2013

By Chris Surber

The holiday season can be tough. It’s great that holidays bring families together, but sometimes there are reasons they stay apart the rest of the year.

Between the work of preparation and potential stress of family situations, we need a plan for how to make the most of the holiday season. This holiday season, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind to help ease stress and make memories worth remembering.

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Avoid unreasonable self-expectations at the holiday season. According to a study done by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Group in 2006, “Men and women alike feel an obligation to tend to their family during the holidays. Half of men (49 percent) and women (51 percent) strongly agree that they feel a responsibility to make sure everyone in their family is happy.”

How can anyone be expected to make sure that “everyone” in their family is happy? It’s difficult enough just to manage my own emotional well-being!

If you are the chef for Thanksgiving, don’t think that you have to cook like Emeril Lagasse. If you are the decorator at Christmas, don’t assume that you have to be a renovator like Ty Pennington. Do your best. Pour love and cheer into what you do, and it will turn out well. Leave it at that.

Decide in advance how you are going to treat that know-it-all difficult cousin who always points out what is less than perfect in your life, even though his life isn’t exactly a model to behold. Make a plan now for who will sit next to whom at the dinner table if possible. Remember that aunt Suzie and Grandma don’t need to be close enough at dinner to start their backhanded compliments to one another. Make a plan.

The Marines say, “The more you sweat in training, the less you’ll bleed in war.” To avoid potential family battles at the holidays, decide now to have a gracious attitude, and make a plan to minimize the potential for conflict.

Last, and most important, remember the central reasons for this season. Don’t just cook a Thanksgiving meal. Be thankful to God for His abundant mercy and showers of love in your life. Don’t just wrap presents to put under a tree. Consider offering worship to the God who sent His Son as an offering to be crucified on a tree in order that He might offer the gift of salvation by faith alone on the basis of His superabundant grace.

When we have that perspective, all the details of how we celebrate the holiday season pass out of focus, and all that remains is the love, bounty, and wonder of grace.

“From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” (John 1:16 NLT)

This season, escape the potential pitfalls by celebrating the grace of God in your heart and in your actions.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at