Three Pain Points to Help You Connect Powerfully with the "Festive Stress" Crowd
I’ve been thinking about how you, my readers - mostly pastors - can make the most of your Christmas season messages to really connect with people. Simple empathy provides one great way to connect with people and let them know that you and God “get” their circumstances.
Now, I’m not saying everyone in your church experiences distress or depression during the holiday festivities. However, some sitting in your church services this month may be pretty stressed out. Just how difficult can the Christmas and holiday season be for some people? Stressful enough to give them a heart attack, according to one study![i]
I also know that many of your churches conduct “Blue Christmas” services. You have a sensitivity to the hurting during the holidays. Still, I would like to remind us all of of three big reasons many people find the Christmas holidays wearying.
1. Past traumatic events become inextricably linked to the context of the holidays. In my own office, one of my co-workers lost her husband to a deadly motorcycle accident 25 years ago on the eve before Thanksgiving. She stills struggles emotionally during Thanksgiving week. Others suffer similarly because of tragedies that occurred in their lives during some previous Christmas season.
2. SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder doesn’t help. Sure, the red, green, blue and white lights sparkle in the darkness! They’re pretty. For some people, in certain climates, that’s just not enough to overcome the depressing effects of shorter days and reduced daylight. There’s plenty of scientific evidence that lack of sunlight creates unhelpful psychological and physiological changes.
3. We should all love each other but reality is that some people’s families get on their last nerve! Sure, the beauty of the holiday season is opportunity to get together with family and loved ones. Trust me on this, though, based on countless hours of counseling experience – some parents (or siblings or grandparents or what-have-you) criticize, pry, pick at, irritate, tease, aggravate and verbally abuse family members. In some situations, these behaviors have gone on for years. Who would really want to subject themselves to that kind of torment?
Hopefully, the majority of people on your pews don’t struggle with any of the above issues. They’re happy during the holidays. They eagerly rejoice in the coming of Christ and celebrate the Incarnation.
However, to really connect deeply with everyone who comes to your church, bear in mind that for some, they just can’t wait to get it all over with.
I believe God’s Spirit will help you make connections between the Christ who came to bind up the broken-hearted and the realities of tragedy, depression and dysfunctional families!
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will help you to do so compassionately and powerfully for the benefit of those feeling stressed by the season.
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[i] Retrieved 11/29/18 from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/01.cir.0000151786.03797.18