Anxiety and pressure from the holiday season can put a damper on the true meaning of Christmas.
Sources of stress include everything from financial burdens and being overwhelmed with social engagements to feelings of loneliness and pressures to compete with the neighbor’s light display
“If you’re feeling stressed out about Christmas, you’re doing it wrong,” said Maria Hurty.
And, the Stanfield woman knows firsthand what it’s like to get caught up in trying to create the perfect Christmas. Hurty said her turning point took place several years ago when she was crying and hiding in the closet — hoping that her family would just do Christmas without her.
“A few years back, I was really convicted that it wasn’t honoring to God,” she said.
Hurty said it’s important to pause and remember why Christmas is being celebrated. As a Christian, she said it’s about God sending his son, Jesus — which is worthy of celebration. That celebration, she said, can include decorating, parties, practicing traditions and singing.
“But don’t lose sight of what we’re actually celebrating,” she said.
“In a culture and lifestyle that’s busy and complicated, it’s easy to go through the Christmas season forgetting to stop and think and ponder and pause about the true meaning,” added Rev. John Hurty, pastor of the Stanfield Baptist Church and Maria’s husband.
Countdown to Christmas
Although the Hurtys didn’t grow up formally celebrating the advent season in a traditional way, they have incorporated practices both at church and in their family home.
John said as the kids have grown up — Nathan, 19; Lydia, 17; Sisay, 16; Norah, 13 and Hobs, 13 — they developed a family tradition of gathering everyone together to read. With an undergraduate degree in history, John sometimes chooses books about historical figures or they read a chapter from the Bible.
“We try to read various things together and pray together,” John said. “Christmas is a variation of that.”
The advent tradition, John said, is a tool that a family can use to try to focus on the meaning of Christmas. In Latin, advent simply means “coming.” The traditional celebration of advent begins with the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.
“It’s kind of like a countdown to Christmas,” Maria explained.
After using various devotional guides over the past few years, the Hurtys found many of them technical and full of verbiage from professional theologians. With a goal of writing advent devotionals that would hold their children’s interest, Maria published “Christmas Crazy to Jesus Joy!”
Each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas has a Bible verse and commentary written by Maria. The book, available on Amazon.com, touches on such topics as the pressure to impress others, the “buy, buy, buy” mentality and highlighting the birth of Jesus and a personal relationship with Christ.
“Christmas Crazy to Jesus Joy!” was a big hit with the Hurty family. Son Nathan said the photos and family memories makes it fun. And, it’s easy to follow.
“It’s definitely written in a way that stuff isn’t going to fly over your head,” he said. “It’s more designed for the normal person’s theological understanding.”
Indicating that people don’t have to go deep into debt in order to give to others, Maria suggests filling stockings with blessings. She shares about the touching sentiments of a handwritten note from her then 10-year-old son, Hobs.
“I love you more than TV,” melted the mom’s heart more than any store-bought gift ever could.
While her holiday habits aren’t “perfect,” Maria said she’s learning to celebrate better. In addition, she recognizes there’s no right or wrong way.
“My value and worth is what God does for me, not how I perform,” she said. “Look at your motivations for what you do. Are you doing it to wow the neighbors or is it enhancing your celebration of the birth of Jesus?”