The pumpkins are still on the porch, but the Christmas train is already picking up speed. If your family is anything like mine, plans are already being made for dinners and parties. If your grocery store or craft store is anything like mine, turkeys and candy canes showed up the minute they put away the unsold school supplies. If your DVR is anything like mine, it’s already set to record the new holiday movies that begin — no joke — tonight.
Like it or not, the holidays are here, and they’re settling in for the next two months.
Over the past few years, my friend Anna and I have made it our mission to watch as many holiday movies as we possibly can. That means we’ve seen some great movies full of holiday spirit and snappy dialogue (waves hello to our pal and Hallmark movie favorite, Candace Cameron Bure), and it means we’ve seen some awful movies full of cheese and so much awkward (sends side-eye to that one movie about a snowman that came to life because seriously). But the reason we keep devoting ourselves to these movies is because even the silliest, sappiest movie usually has something encouraging to tell us as we skip or stumble through the holiday season.
Case in point, a movie from two years ago featured a grumpy Grinch of a man and a perky Pollyanna of an angel. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you any more for you to assume (correctly) that hearts grew, holiday spirit was found, and the town was saved. All that is true, as is the fact that the movie itself was one of my favorite channel’s lesser offerings that year. Still, out of all the holiday movies I’ve watched, that one is where I heard a line that’s stuck with me over time.
One of the characters said to another character who was dealing with some sort of grief, “The holidays are like a magnifying glass. Everything feels bigger during this season.”
The moment I heard that, my head started nodding and — knowing me — my eyes probably filled with tears. Because, yes — that is so true! No matter what the rest of your year has looked like, no matter what you’re feeling or dealing with during the fall, everything intensifies the second the calendar flips over into The Holiday Season (which, as we discussed earlier, spans from October to December at the very least).
So the exciting and joyous seem even more so! And that’s fantastic (and likely the inspiration for the catchiest Christmas carols). But the heavy and hard, when put under the magnifying glass of the holidays, might feel overwhelmingly heavy and hard. The absence of or separation from loved ones will feel even more devastating. The tension of financial struggles or health challenges will be even more worrying and wearying. Our insecurities, our disappointments, our frustrations, and our pain will all be blown up to monstrous proportions at a time when we wish even more desperately than normal that they would go away for good.
Well, great, you might be thinking now. Bah humbug to you, too! Thanks for these tidings of comfort and joy! I know. It sounds like this can only be bad news, but it’s not. Not really. It’s reality, and it’s not fun. But it’s not the end of the world, especially if we know it’s going to happen.
See, that’s why I wanted to tell you about this lesson I learned by watching a silly, sappy Christmas movie — because I’m confident that knowing is half the battle, that wisdom is the key to living a life of joy.
Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.
Proverbs 3:13 (NLT)
If we know that the holidays are going to bring heightened emotions and experiences, then we can be prepared. Just like we might try to save money for the extra expenditures that come with the holidays and we try to boost our physical immunity with flu shots and hand sanitizer before winter arrives, we also can fill up our spiritual and emotional tanks. Get in the Word. Spend time with a trustworthy friend. Build in pockets of rest and even moments of fun. Go to bed on time. Make a game plan to avoid becoming overly busy. And then, as things come up, we can be ready to evaluate our responses and determine whether any given situation is as earth-shattering or life-altering as it first appears. And, more importantly, we can be proactive in asking for God’s peace and strength to handle whatever comes our way in the last few months of the year.
Realizing that the holidays magnify our every emotion is a gift and can help us prepare to step into the holiday season with confidence this year. And if we needed one, it gives us the reason to be extra kind to ourselves and to others as we all do our best to enjoy this magical (and magnified) time of year. Perhaps then we can sing along with Mary, who saw some of the highest highs and lowest lows of all time:
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.”
Luke 1:46-49 (NLT)
How will you prepare for the magnifying glass of the holidays?
This year Anna and I are once again excited to watch and discuss the new holiday TV movies. We call it “Hooked on Holiday Movies,” and we’ll be bringing you Facebook Live videos, bonus podcast episodes, giveaways, a free devotional, and more! Click here for more details and to join us.
Be extra kind to yourself and to others as we all do our best to enjoy this magical (and magnified) time of year. -@marycarver: Click To Tweet