How Jesus Helps Us Handle Holiday Stress

After I was outed in 1981, I resigned from Baptist College and moved to Atlanta. I began to dread the holidays. I worked for a delivery service and put myself on to work every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. I did not want to spend a holiday thinking about and grieving over my lost family and children from who I had been separated. I kept as busy as possible. I even had a hard time going to church on holidays. MCC in Atlanta was a lot of help to all of us who were lonely and depressed during the holidays. They had special events, meals at church, and a lot of pleasant fellowship was available. I was still lonely and depressed.

Holidays can be a painful time of remembering lost friends and family and departed comrades. Separation from our parents and other relatives can hurt more than usual during the holidays, especially when you are told, “You can come, but don’t bring Steve!”

Because I did not want to face the loneliness and separation of the holidays, I did a lot of holiday drinking. Once, in 1988, when I first tried to quit drinking, I went to an AA meeting in August, took a white chip and became sober. I did OK until Christmas, when I began to drink again, and soon I was more under the control of alcohol than before. I learned the hard way that one drink is too many and a thousand drinks are not enough. I kept drinking until the next August 8, 1989, when I went to another AA meeting and started over with another white chip, and with God’s help to live “one day at a time”. I became sober and have stayed sober for 9 years, four months and one week today! I know better than to use alcohol to try to handle conflict and stress. Do you?

How can we handle the conflicts and stress of the holiday season in constructive and positive ways? Does Jesus give us any help? Yes!

Jesus endured his greatest stress and the ultimate test of his purpose and mission in life during a holiday. He was betrayed, abandoned, tortured and murdered during the holidays! The Passover was the biggest holiday of the year in Israel. The population of Jerusalem swelled to over 2 million people during the Passover season. People were everywhere, just like Christmas shopping mall mob scenes today! In the midst of the celebration of Passover, Jesus went apart to be alone in the Garden and prayed, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but Your will be done.”

Whatever stress you face, Jesus has already faced it and handled it well. This is why the presence of the Spirit of Jesus in you will guide and empower you to handle your pressures and disappointments. Holiday time can be a time of spiritual growth and an opportunity for outreach in love and ministry for Jesus in the lives of the people around you.

Remember that other people are hurting and need you. Reach out to others. Give yourself in phone calls, visits, writing letters, sending e-mail, and giving your time and your attention to people who need you. Most of all, share Jesus with others. If you are prepared to share your experience with Jesus, God will give you the opportunity to give the greatest gift of all: the gospel of the good news of God’s love.

Sue was a deacon at Golden Gate MCC in San Francisco when I was Pastor there. She met David at a homeless shelter and encouraged him and became his friend. She shared with him my MCC brochure on how to become a Christian: “The Bible as Your Friend.” David had AIDS and was seriously ill. At about midnight one night, David called Sue from San Francisco General Hospital and told her that he needed to see her because he was afraid. Sue went to see David and as soon as she saw him, she knew that he did not have long to live.

David said, “Sue, I am afraid that when I die I will go out somewhere into limbo or something.” Sue reminded David of the brochure and they read through it again. Sue told David that he could have Jesus in his heart and life if he just invited Jesus to come into his life. David asked Sue to help him pray. She did. David fell back on his pillow and looked up and smiled and said, “I think I have my purple angel wings now!” After a couple of hours, David asked Sue, “Can I go home now? I want to go home.” Sue said, “Yes, David, you can go home.” David shut his eyes and died at 3:00 A.M. David was 16 years old.

A week later, Sue called David’s mother, for David had given her the phone number. David’s mother told Sue, “As far as I am concerned, David died 6 months ago!” That was when she had learned that her son was gay and had AIDS.

Somebody needs you to be the family that has abandoned them because they are gay or lesbian. Your greatest gift to others is to be the loving hands and voice of Jesus to touch people who are wounded and in pain because of the homophobia and religious abuse and oppression that prevails in our society. You may be someone’s only hope. David is still out there. Look for him. He needs your love this holiday season.

Jesus knew what it was like to be misunderstood by his own family. He showed us how we can select the people who are to be our spiritual family and how to make good choices about who we let be close to us. See Mark 3:20-21 and 31-35, where Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”