I have my Christmas tree up.
I thought that might be mine and my grand-daughter Lacey Jane’s lil secret until I was blessed with a visit from Sarah Knepper and her beautiful family, but even then I swore Sarah to secrecy because I couldn’t fathom admitting that I had my Christmas tree up in October.
I do feel a tad better saying it now that November is here. Traditionally we put our tree up after Thanksgiving dinner, but for certain reasons it was appropriate this year to, yes, put up a Christmas tree in October. And I’m okay with that now, okay with it enough to admit it and celebrate it myself.
While a fully decorated Christmas tree sitting in your living room two weeks before Halloween may not be what you need for a less stressful Christmas this year, thanks to author Steven Estes, I’m delighted to share some ideas with you today for you to have A Better December this year.
The shopping, the family get-togethers, the office Christmas party, the decorating, the memories of loved ones who are no longer with us . . . What should be the happiest time of the year can become a stressful, anxiety-ridden, and emotional season for many who are seeking perfection and trying to meet unrealistic expectations. But December doesn’t have to get the better of us.
In A Better December: Proverbs to Brighten Christmas, pastor and author Steven Estes offers gems of Solomon’s proverbial wisdom to help readers find the joy and celebration we all desire for the Christmas season. Even though Solomon lived long before Christ, and three thousand years prior to our modern observance of Christmas, his wisdom is timeless and remarkably applicable to those who long to find themselves refreshed and renewed instead of depleted and cranky in December. Estes deftly combines the wisdom of Proverbs with humor and touching stories, drawing heavily on traditional holiday themes.
Q: Christmas is supposed to be a time of family, joy and celebration. Why is it so often a time of stress and anxiety?
Perfection. Unrealistic expectations. Trying to shake a snow-globe Christmas out of every holiday. For others, it’s the obligation to visit relatives who make you bristle. For some, the financial pressure of needing to appear generous. Plus, Christmas intensifies almost every sorrow of life. People out of work, divorced, never‑married, widowed, bereaved, far from home, estranged from family, or bereft of romance can find the season unbearable.
Q: How did you make the connection between Solomon’s wisdom and the holiday season?
As a pastor, I preach on Christmas themes each year, but the New Testament narratives about Jesus’ birth are few. So for a change, one year I scoured Proverbs for any counsel it might offer on how to face December’s typical challenges: materialism, stress, loneliness, etc. The resulting sermon was the basis for A Better December. But when morphing that sermon into book form, this thought loomed clearer and clearer: Solomon offers good advice—but good advice (even divine advice) is never enough. What we need most is a Person to help us with stress and sadness, and to change the selfishness in us that Christmas often provokes.
Q: Could you give us a couple of your favorite examples of Solomon’s wisdom, and how they apply to Christmas?
There are so many to choose from:
- Solomon likes winter, noting that “the coolness of snow . . . refreshes the spirit” (25:13).
- He has an eye for “an ornament of fine gold” on a tree (25:12), and for the “fool full of food” at the holiday office party (30:22). But don’t assume that everyone smiling in the room is happy, he cautions, for “even in laughter the heart may ache” (14:13).
- He feels for tired parents whose kids come bouncing from their rooms before dawn on the big day: “If you shout a pleasant greeting to your neighbor too early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse!” (27:14).
- He counsels us that dazzling gifts won’t dazzle for long: “Death and destruction and never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man” (27:20).
- To shopping addicts, he urges: ‘Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil” (15:16).
Q: What do you hope each reader will walk away with from reading A Better December?
Solomon is good, but Jesus is better. The former can lead you to the latter.
Learn more about pastor and author Steve Estes and his books at www.steveestes.net.