This time of year tends to play a variety of games with our emotions and with our minds. Looking at the calendar and seeing Christmas just under three weeks away, most of us feel conflicting emotions. There are moments of happiness, love, high spirits, to remember and to look forward to. While at the same time, we wrestle with fatigue, stress, irritability, sadness, anger or loneliness. In a study released a few years ago from the American Psychological Association (APA), the following top eight stressors are found common amongst most of us during the holidays. Lack of Time. There is not enough time to get everything done. Whether it’s things for the family, like christmas shopping, putting up the christmas tree, hanging lights on the outside of your house, etc. Or it could be due to the lack of time at the end of the year at work with so many deadlines approaching. Not to mention the difficulty in getting the extra time off to spend time with your family.
Lack of Money. Latest statistics say that one in three individuals go into a thousand dollars worth of debt each holiday season. We don’t want to be characterized as a Scrooge, but we have a hard time making financially responsible decisions.
Family. Some of us are coping and grieving over a loved one that was with us last Christmas will not be with us this year. Some of us are coping and grieving with the fact that our crazy family hasn’t gotten the hint yet that they stress you out.
Hype of the Holidays. The National Retail Federation projected over 102 million people visited a store on Black Friday, with another 103 million shopping on Cyber Monday. The crowds at the malls, the christmas cards in the mail, there is so much to participate in and give our attention to it’s exhausting just thinking about it.
Gifts. If you’re like me, I want to make sure I get the right gift for everyone. Some of us are uncomfortable with being blessed and given a gift, this also brings you stress.
Diet. Turkey, prime rib, mashed potatoes, desserts, baked goods, drinks, etc. Say good-bye to your boyish/girlish figure for the next two months. Many people in the survey from the APA best described their feeling during the holidays as: “bloated”.
Travel. Many of us fear that we will fall victim to the Home Alone accident, I have all the bags packed, and the gifts wrapped, but do we have everyone with us?! Kevin?!?
Children. Lets be honest, most kids lose their mind this time of year. Most parents feel the pressure to up the ante and make this a memorable year. This is my first Christmas as a father, my daughter being born on Christmas last year has no clue what’s going on, but there is a deep desire to make this her BEST CHRISTMAS EVER! Even though she will not remember it at all, I have to fight this.
With all these things weighing on our mind, how we can approach this Christmas Season with hope, excitement and in a posture of worship?
Let’s take a look at Mary’s posture to the coming of her son and Savior. Her song of praise before the birth of Jesus commonly known as the Magnificat can be found in Like 1:46-55.
 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
As we look at this song of praise it’s important to keep a few things in mind. This come after her journey on foot from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah covered between 80 and 100 miles. The idea of a young unmarried woman traveling four to five days, potentially alone, was unheard of, especially when we remember she was somewhere between the ages of 12-14 and around three months pregnant. Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s door step eager to see her with her own eyes and behold the miracle Gabriel gave about Elizabeth being pregnant despite her barrenness and age. But upon her arrival, Elizabeth praises and celebrates the miracle God has done in Mary’s life with the conception of Christ, hers and our Savior. Mary had reasons to be stressed, anxious, uncertainty in her life, but she approached this time as an opportunity for worship.
In her song of praise, Mary essentially tells God that she is thankful and then tells him why. This Advent season, we should make note of what Mary makes much of, the Character and Nature of her God. Her song can be our song this Christmas. Her song isn’t one of lip service, her soul has been saturated by God. She is in awe of God’s might. That her God is the creator of heaven and earth, the One who lit up the earth and set it spinning in motion. That He separated the sky from the sea and the sea from the land. How He filled the earth, sky, sea with swam of living creatures. All of this by the power of his Word, Our God is MIGHTY. She is in awe of God’s holiness. God is majestic, Holy is his name, Holy is his identity and nature. As we worship God for his holiness, we see more of him and are reminded how unholy we truly are. This brings us to the third thing Mary worships God for, she is in awe of God's mercy. How else could we as sinful, broken, full of pain people be in the presence of a mighty and holy God if it were not for his mercy?
In light of all of this, how should this shape how we view and approach this upcoming advent and holiday season? We need to remind ourselves that the same God Mary praises as mighty, holy, and merciful is the same God we find in the form of an infant on Christmas morning. My prayer for us as a church is that Mary’s song of praise would be ours as well this Christmas. May we use this season to remember and celebrate our God and long for His return, where the stressors that plague us in this season will soon have no place in our lives.