Performance Anxiety

by Joanie Butman

Just a brief follow up regarding last week’s “lighting.” Who knew lighting an Advent wreath could cause such anxiety? My husband was up all night on Saturday angsting and strategizing the order of who was to speak and when. He also had a dream that Hannah showed up in sneakers. I had my own nightmares of candle mishaps and fire engines. Safe to say we both suffer from performance anxiety! Come to think of it, what parent doesn’t suffer performance anxiety around Christmas – the gifts, the meals, the enormous responsibility of creating positive Christmas traditions and memories? I just never expected that lighting a candle could be one of them. In hindsight, however, given our dubious advent wreath history, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

You laugh, probably thinking (as I did) that 10-yr-olds do this. How could Joanie and her family screw this up? I’ll tell you how. Hannah did show up in sneakers (nice ones, but still). We were down a man because my son decided to go to the Giants game. Then, thinking I was doing a good thing, at the last minute I decided to print out our script in a larger font. Unknowingly, I printed out the prior week’s prayers. Kudos to Bob for picking up on it before we got in the car. “This doesn’t look right,” he warned. I chided him, “Oh, stop being such a worry wart.” Just to appease him I checked, and he was right. It would have been such a ‘mom’ move – and one I would never have lived down. God bless him for his conscientiousness. That faux pas could have gotten us banned from the lighting ceremony for life!

                   For Myles

                  For Myles

My husband had us practice on the ride to church, and my daughter was critiquing my delivery. “You’re so flat. Put some enthusiasm into it.” In response I went all Southern Baptist on them. Horrified, she replied in earnest, “If you do that, I’m leaving.” Though I was tempted, I gave the ‘flat’ delivery, and our presentation went off without a hitch.

You might think it an odd thing to be discussing Christmas morning, but not really because the build up to Christmas is wrought with anxieties of all kinds - including spiritual ones. I think we all suffer from spiritual performance anxiety to some extent, mistakenly thinking that our salvation relies on how well we perform in life. Christmas morning turns that belief upside down. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the naughty or nice list. Our salvation doesn’t rely on what we do but on what He’s done, and it all began Christmas morning so many years ago. It’s His performance we celebrate today, and hopefully, every day. Santa may only come once a year, but Christ is with us always. Just as the angels proclaimed, that is Good News! We should all be singing, “Gloria in excelsis Deo” every morning, afternoon, and evening.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Having said all that, there is one act (or leap) of faith we need to do, and that is to choose to accept the greatest gift you will ever receive: the gift of grace offered freely and without condition. Otherwise, there's nothing to celebrate today. Choose wisely!