January Blues

January 3rd, 2012

The holiday season is finally coming to a close.

Christmas used to last just twelve days (according to the old church calendars). With stores trotting out the decorations before Halloween, Christmas lasts up to fifty-five days now. And after two and a half solid months of Christmas, if you’re anything like me, you need to detox and cleanse all the Christmas from your system.

And yet, the days after Christmas are a tough time for me.

After all the excitement of Christmas, it’s suddenly over. The trees are still up, but they’ve lost their magic. They’re waiting to be stripped of their lights and stuffed back in a box or placed lovingly on the curb for pickup. Gifts are being returned with receipts for something a bit more desirable. And in a few days, everyone will feel the need to punish themselves with New Year’s resolutions. And the long, cold winter months will set in with not much to look forward to.

It can’t really be avoided. With a holiday as huge as Christmas, it’s easy for depression and bleakness to set in when it’s all said and done. After two months of trying to earnestly seeking the true “reason for the season,” it’s easy to feel spiritually directionless.

So, if you’re feeling the dead weight of January falling on you, try these New Year’s resolutions that will actually make you feel better during the after-Christmas season.

Be Present

Maybe you tried to find the real meaning of Christmas this year. Maybe you just mentally zoned out, went through the motions, showed up at the parties, obliged the relatives, and just woke up to realize it’s all over. I’ve done that before.

Even if you tried to really stay awake during the Christmas season, it’s easy to zone out during January. If Christmas is a hard time to focus on spirituality, it may be even more difficult in a season when nothing is happening.

Make a resolution to be mentally and spiritually present this winter. Don’t zone out. Don’t let your spiritual life get out of shape just because the holidays are over. Dig deep into God’s word. Push your prayer life to a new level.

Give

Most people treat Christmas as a time to give extravagantly. People give to family, friends, and most people find some way to give charitably. We drop some change in a kettle or make an effort to take a donation to a pantry. If you think January is tough for you, think about those shelters and food pantries. Everyone thinks about them during the season of generosity, but once January hits, it’s a few solid months of cold, people are most in need, and everyone is paying off their credit cards. No one is thinking about charity. Make a resolution to give or serve when it’s not on anyone else’s mind this winter.

Pick Your Battles

Maybe you’re an enlisted soldier in the war for Christmas. Maybe you’re like me and you’re a registered Christmas pacifist. Just because Christmas is over, it doesn’t mean that fights are not being picked and battles being waged. There are endless ways that Christians can be tempted to wage war with the world or with each other. If Christmas is an easy time for Christians to “miss the point,” January is an even bigger opportunity for wasted effort and needless division.

Make a resolution to pick your battles wisely this January. Start with your own life. What occupies your time, your energy or finances? Are you spending your resources on important things? Or are you distracted by things that God probably doesn’t really care about? What drives your spirituality, in other words, what self-improvement do you hope your faith will bring you? Are you hoping that your faith will bring you more success? Better relationships? Better health? Are your spiritual goals even in the words of Jesus? Most people have goals that we try to loosely tie spirituality into, that Jesus never concerned himself with.

Finally, examine the battles that are important to you? Are you a peacemaker, or a troublemaker? What divides you from other Christians, or your non-Christian neighbors? What criticisms are you harboring toward your brothers and sisters? Are they even worth it? Are you criticizing others just to indulge the gratification of being critical? Or are you bringing others to the joy that truth brings? The irony of Christmas is that the season of love and generosity has become a battleground over every holiday custom. But January has no fewer opportunities for division.

This year, make a resolution to pick your battles wisely. Most of them are just distractions from what God cares about. So start beating your swords into plowshares.


Matt Appling is a pastor and school teacher in Kansas City, Missouri.  He blogs at TheChurchOfNoPeople.com.
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