Holiday coping mechanisms (some better than others)

Is the holiday season getting you down?  I mean, even more “down” than normal?  Do you instinctively head for the firearms section in your local Walmart when you hear yet another Christmas carol slaughtered by some boy band or country crooner?  Be of good cheer, citizen — there are a variety of remedies on the market.

There is alcohol.  That’s a popular one  It’s a good short-term fix — kind of like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer until you lose consciousness.  But in the long term, it does far more harm than good.  Science calls alcohol a “depressant,” for crying out loud; how obvious does it have to be?  Read Proverbs 23:29-35 for Solomon’s inspired testimony regarding alcohol.

There is food.  But not just any food; it has to be unhealthy.  Binging on raw vegetables has not lifted anyone’s sagging spirits, to my knowledge.  Cheesecake, ice cream, raw cookie dough — that’s another matter.  But again, the “fix” is temporary.  And soon you are depressed and fretting about your weight gain, maybe even in your doctor’s office.  Limiting your honey intake is better, according to Proverbs 25:27.

There is recreation.  We certainly love to be entertained in our culture.  But recreation was never supposed to be an objective; it is a brief respite, intended to “recreate” an environment in which we can work effectively.  So it should be no surprise that a lifestyle with recreation at the center tends strongly to underachieve and disappoint in more serious matters.  Enjoying your life is fine, even good; but you should never neglect “your toil in which you have labored under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9).  And if you can find joy in the work itself, consider yourself truly blessed.

But instead of these traditional approaches, here’s one that might suit better in the long term: perspective.

You’re annoyed that you hear “Let  It Snow” a hundred times a day — in Florida?  You feel like you’re being taunted by the weatherman?  Give thanks that you don’t actually have to deal with the stuff three months out of the year.  Do you think your cousin in Buffalo would trade places with you in two shakes?  And while you’re at it, give thanks that it isn’t “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in your ears — a horrible song that actually celebrates date rape.

You’re annoyed at the constant ringing of bells by representatives of a large religious body noted world-wide for its generosity toward the underprivileged?  Give thanks that you are not underprivileged yourself.  Oh, and find a way to lift up someone who’s a rung or two below you on life’s ladder while you’re thinking about it.  Be the one who scatters and finds himself increasing all the more, a la Proverbs 11:24-25.

You decry the crass commercialism that seems to take over our society this time of year?  Then why are you in a shopping mall?  Motes and beams (Mark 7:1-5).

More than anything else, you are a Christian, bought by the blood of Christ, living in a land in which (at least once a year) your neighbors are excited about having Jesus in their lives.  Granted, the truth of the Jesus story rarely gets a greater flagellation than it does in the month of December.  And the story of Jesus’ birth told this time of year frequently has little resemblance to the narrative in the Bible.  Add to that the complete absence of any reference in the text to Jesus’ birthday being celebrated at all, let alone with mistletoe and candy canes.  Still, despite the best efforts of many in our culture, Jesus’ name is freely and joyfully circulated in this land — something that cannot be said in many parts of the world.

So remember, “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) — even when everyone, including me, tells you to.