“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17 NIV

I recently walked into a local store on an errand, hoping to get in and out quickly and on to my next appointment. Just inside the door was a collection of everything Christmas …in the aisles, down the side of the aisles, creating a feeling of almost panic as I looked around realizing it was weeks from Christmas and already we were in a merchandise war to buy! I immediately pushed my cart to the outside and went in to get the items I needed, and reached the checkout only to be in line for what seemed like ages as folks were buying heaping carts of “Christmas” and talking to those around them about the stress and frustration of having to do this every year.

Let’s fast forward for a minute. Even though God gives us all we need for a healthy, happy life, we tend to disturb it by observing the holiday on human terms. Look at the holiday traps that take up your time. Prioritize your tasks as “need to do,”, should do”, “want to do,” and expected to do”. Which ones really address the Christmas spirit? Prioritize all of your activities. By weeding out those that distract you from the true meaning of Christmas, you will find less stress and more enjoyment from your choices.

Advent brings with it a time for joy, hope, peace and love, not piles of Christmas gifts, rounds of parties, or copious amounts of food. Think about what has real meaning for you. Is it the Christmas story you heard as a child or the joy of sharing it with your family as an adult? Think about the feelings that a Christmas hymn like “Joy to the World” or the peace you feel when you hear Silent Night sung in the chaos that we endure daily in the news… Don’t let the overpowering commercialism or stress overshadow the gifts of love and sharing that you offer your love ones.

Remember the spirit of Christmas, share your presence with other, and give your stress some relief by creating some new meaningful traditions that demonstrate God’s love. Help with some of the outreach to the less fortunate that our own church does…gifts to nursing home patients with no families, food for those with none, clothing for children who have no warm clothing for winter, and more. Doing things as a family or with friends like singing carols, seeing Christmas lights, making cookies for the homeless shelters or your neighbors. Let your mind and heart have fun showing God’s love is in you. “Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full”…Luke 6:38 NLT

And before you know it……….we will ring in the New Year and I ask you, “What are you doing for your health this year? Are you going to just keep on with your old habits and ignore the healthier ones? You know what that is…junk food at the grocery store…recliner feels much better than a walk in the cold or a trip to the exercise place…you add to the list. When I lived in Hawaii, my eight years of Chinese friends celebrating the New Year was a tradition of finishing with the old and start with the new….getting the old debts settled, re-establishing friendships, cleaning house and restocking cupboards. The New Year is a good time to look at your life and determine what you need to change. Start with your health! I will be doing blood pressures one Sunday a month and would love to have everyone come in for a check of your blood pressure. We will work on safety issues in the home, medication education, emergency planning, and more.

I wish you each of you a blessed and warm Christmas, and a very happy and healthy new year 2020, and I look forward to being part of the congregation and school full of the healthiest families in Kitsap County….physically, emotionally and spiritually! Join me in creating this wonderful place!

Cynthia Rutan, RN, Parish Nurse at Peace Lutheran Church and School peaceparishnurse@comcast.net