Not Doing It All Over the Holidays

Learning to Say No / Not Doing It All Over the Holidays

Christmas is upon us and filling up the calendar feels right this season. 2020 was hard. The holidays offer us one final chance for joy and to displace the disappointment we endured all year.

But oh, all the things. Caroling and Christmas lights; parties and presents; people and priorities; food and feelings. Yikes. The endless march toward peace on earth beckons me to join the festive parade, but before I know it I am short on time and temper, and I realize saying yes to everything makes a mess out of it all.

I learned how to say no four years ago in the middle of a particularly grueling day of festive holiday events. I spread myself too thin, like lattice on top of a pie that had a hidden crack. I zig-zagged across town from sunrise to sunset, dragging my cranky toddler along with me. His sisters were at school, so we checked off my to-do list together with worn out smiles. A mid-morning preschool party followed by cookies and cocoa with Kindergartners, Christmas shopping and grocery shopping and more–I was present, but not really there until the jostle of the journey made a mess out of something sweet.

I was on the phone when it happened. Crammed in my car with a miserably hungry child and a timeline that would not bend, I squeezed in a quick call to my mom in a frustrated panic about Christmas details that needed her attention. My brain rattled off its list of problems until out of nowhere I heard myself say, “Hang on. I have to lick frosting off my purse.”

Giggles erupted from the other end and before I knew it, I was laughing too. All my Christmas hustle and bustle took my eyes off what mattered most until a slice of leftover cake interrupted my day in the best possible way. It taught me that pushing and running and saying yes to everything does not make me generous. Instead, it makes my heart stingy with my best yes and it sacrifices my peace in the process.

Since that day, when the stress of the season starts to take my focus off what matters most, I think about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the way she modeled the peace-giving power of a well-spent yes with three words: “Let it be” (Luke 1:38 ESV).

When the angel Gabriel paid her an unexpected visit to share the good news of God’s plan, it caught Mary off guard. “’Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!’ Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, […] You will conceive and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1:29-31 NLT). The glory and surprise of God’s interruption left her uncertain, but she quieted her heart and let the news sink in, deciding to posture her heart toward the best of what God had for her in that season. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” she said (Luke 1:38 ESV).

Mary could have said no to God’s invitation so she could say yes to all sorts of other things: an easier life, more acceptance among peers; the freedom to live life her way on her terms. But she didn’t do that: she generously surrendered every other yes for the sake of the one that mattered most: partnering with God’s plan to bring the Prince of Peace to earth. Mary said Let it be.

I want to be like Mary this season. When fear tempts me to say yes to everything, I want to remember the way Mary gave a generous yes to the best thing. I want to hold on to the promise of peace and let go of the pressure to perform. I want to embrace interruptions and listen to God’s offer and open my heart to the possibility that Jesus is what matters most this season.I want to say Let it be because Christmas is about saying yes to Jesus and opening our arms wide to receive the joy that comes along with him.

As we prepare our hearts for the holidays, let’s decide to make it a season of surrender and not a season of scurry. Let’s say no with confidence and grace and make the best use of our yes so we can say with one voice Let it be.

Rachel Maier is the voice behind of RachelMaierWrites.com, a blog that celebrates the way faith, family, and food mingle to minister to the soul. She shares the ways her family chooses joy in the middle of their complicated food allergy kitchen and inspires families like hers to cultivate meaningful connection and a renewed sense of joy around the table no matter what food has to stay off of it. Rachel’s irrepressible fondness for food along with her radical hope for healing make life around her table fraught with goodness, just like God intended. Connect with Rachel at RachelMaierWrites.com or on Instagram @Rachel.Maier.Writes