May peace and joy be with you this Christ­mas

The Compass - - OPINION - — Bar­bara Dean-Sim­mons is a re­gional ed­i­tor with TC Me­dia

This week we cel­e­brate the birth of a child whose des­tiny was to show the world how to live a bet­ter, more peace­ful life.

We all know the story of the first Christ­mas. A poor mother and fa­ther, she heavy with the child of the Holy Spirit, travel to Beth­le­hem for the cen­sus tak­ing. While there she de­liv­ers of a baby boy, Je­sus. Wise men travel from afar to give the baby gifts. To cel­e­brate the birth of Chris­tian­ity, we also par­take of the rit­u­als of gift giv­ing, em­u­lat­ing the Magi of two cen­turies ago.

For sev­eral weeks, months even, we pre­pare for Christ­mas by choos­ing, buy­ing and wrap­ping gifts for our fam­ily and friends.

We ag­o­nize over what to get and who to buy for, and fret over get­ting it all done be­fore De­cem­ber 24.

Col­lec­tively, peo­ple rack up mil­lions of dol­lars of debt on credit cards try­ing to make Christ­mas per­fect by pleas­ing ev­ery one on their list.

We strive for per­fec­tion: aim­ing to make the house per­fect for Christ­mas — just like the pic­tures of Christ­mas trees, Christ­mas ta­bles and homes that ap­pear on the front cov­ers of house­keep­ing and home dec­o­rat­ing mag­a­zines in the weeks lead­ing up to the hol­i­day.

We drive our­selves crazy try­ing to have ev­ery­thing just so.

We don’t think Je­sus meant for us to go to so much trou­ble and worry for His sake.

While He wanted us to do onto oth­ers as we would have oth­ers do onto us, He prob­a­bly never meant for us to put our­selves into debt try­ing to be nice to the other per­son.

Christ­mas should not be about do­ing so much, spend­ing so much, stretch­ing your­self so thin — fi­nan­cially and emo­tion­ally — that you wish the hol­i­day wouldn’t come at all.

If this is what is has be­come for you, per­haps it’s time to step back and make a bet­ter game plan for next Christ­mas.

Make it a fam­ily game plan to keep Christ­mas sim­ple. Set a bud­get and stick to it. Keep the tra­di­tions you en­joy and elim­i­nate those that leave you feel­ing over­whelmed with stress.

If you en­joy Christ­mas carols, take the time to stop the rush­ing around and at­tend a sim­ple church ser­vice, or school con­cert.

Ex­plain to your friends that you sim­ply can’t af­ford to give ev­ery­one gifts. You can still do nice things for those whose friend­ship you trea­sure but it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. A sim­ple day of help­ing with the house­work, or look­ing af­ter the chil­dren to al­low a friend to have a day to them­selves would prob­a­bly be much more ap­pre­ci­ated than an ex­pen­sive trin­ket.

Christ­mas is not just about the presents un­der the tree. It’s a day to cel­e­brate how your life has been en­riched by your fam­ily, your friends, and the peo­ple who have done good things for you in the past year.

It’s a chance to slow down, con­tem­plate and en­joy a bit of peace.

Our wish for all the peo­ple we deal with in the course of a year is that they en­joy peace and hap­pi­ness this Christ­mas and for the rest of the year.

Merry Christ­mas to you all.

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