I was at in line at the grocery store the other day buying almond milk eggnog and some ground beef. It was two days after Thanksgiving. The clerk asked the customer in front of me how she was doing. The customer immediately replied: “I’m stressed out.” The customer then listed her recent, present, and future activities and responsibilities. I got tired just listening to her.
I went home. I was disappointed in the eggnog. I’ll stick with the dairy based version. The cheeseburgers didn’t disappoint. They never do. But I kept thinking about the woman. The frustration on her face when she looked at her list and forgot an item. The cell phone kept buzzing and she was trying to keep up. The tired look on her face. I didn’t have to use any of my theological or biblical training to come to two conclusions:
- This woman has a long month in front of her.
- This type of stress and level of obligation is not quite what God had in mind when he sent Jesus to the world.
Joy to the world
Joy was the idea. Mary had a bunch of it. God told her that she was going to bring God into the world and Mary couldn’t have been more pleased. She skipped the gender reveal on Facebook and didn’t make Joseph paint the baby’s room. She did go hang out with her cousin Elizabeth and they had this joyful, no-frills baby shower. Mary then sang this beautiful song filled with joy. Then Mary and her boyfriend, Joseph, took a mandatory road trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The Tesla was out of juice, so they walked and rode donkeys. She ended up having the baby. Not in the luxurious confines of Methodist Hospital. Even the Embassy Suites was full because the census, so Joseph found the closest Airbnb and Jesus was born in a barn. A few strangers visited the new family and dropped off a few valuable, but impractical gifts. And then Luke gives us a glimpse of what God had in mind when Jesus entered the world: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
One thing we all have in common
The woman at the grocery store and Mary had something in common: stress. One had to-do list a mile long and a calendar as full as her grocery cart. Mary had to tell Joseph she was pregnant and he was not the dad. Stress happens in life, but it’s not stress that breaks us. It is our reaction to the stress that breaks us. We can choose to react to stress in one of four ways.
- Acceptance – Give in and accept stress as normal.
- Anger – Get frustrated and take your stress out on others.
- Anxiety – Let stress overwhelm you.
- Action – Proactively take a series of sequential actions to overcome stress.
Choose #4 and make joy possible because joy doesn’t happen when we are full of stress, anger, and anxiety.