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The burdens of the season

I spent three days getting up the lights for Christmas. I have lights hanging all over the inside and outside of our house. I loaded up my wife and kids the other night and headed up to Pate Road to see the Watson family’s display. What a blessing they are to do that for all of us each year.

Inside, the kids decorated the Christmas tree, mostly with ornaments they had made in school over the years. Some were from pre-school. Our daughter is now in the sixth grade. The kids remembered to decorate from top to bottom and all around the tree. Last year they only decorated halfway up and on one side.

Now we have the planning to do for presents, budgeting, etc. We have to plan how much time we will spend with my wife’s family and how much time with mine. And then we get to do the traditional worrying over making everything just so. And that is the problem with the Christmas season.

Go to your nearest shopping center, school, or church, and you’ll see smiling, seemingly happy people. But many of them have forced smiles on their faces to hold back the tears. They have worries. They are struggling to make ends meet. They are not sure if they have the money to buy the presents they want, and some of them will be struggling with depression. In our national rush to have postcard perfect Christmas seasons with the lights just so and the bows tied just right, we forget that behind the veneer for many of us, there are real struggles, doubts and troubles.

I read a pretty insightful comment a while back from a Christian apologist who had been in a lesbian relationship for a number of years before converting, marrying a man, and starting a family. She said that too many Christians are so worried about their houses being perfect that they never actually have people over to visit. In the gay community, the open side door and ready conversation can be what stands between a person and a bottle or drugs or worse. I wonder how many of us are so intent on our homes looking perfect and our living rooms spotless that we never actually enjoy the holidays? What should be a time of blessing and love becomes a time of misery.

I was reading “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis a while back. For those of you who don’t know about the “Letters,” C.S. Lewis wrote them as though a devil was writing letters to a demon he was training on how to ensnare a human in hell. In one of the letters Screwtape, the mentor devil, tells Wormwood, the pupil, to keep the thoughts of Wormwood’s charge in the future or the past.

If the thoughts were of the future, when they did not materialize the human would be angry with God. Likewise, people are more charitable to the past than the past really was. As a result, the human is likely to believe God is unfairly punishing him in the present.

Screwtape cautions Wormwood to never let the human dwell his thoughts upon the present for that is where God is most real and visible. When we struggle to recreate the Christmases of memories past, we do much the same. We fill the here and now with the burdens of the past and fail to enjoy the potential for new memories and present company.

Though easier said than done, try not to so burden this holiday season with the need for the perfect. Commit instead to enjoying good company and a wonderful time of year.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.