Twice in the last two weeks, I’ve had the privilege of speaking in local churches, sharing my thoughts on The Gift of Christmas Present. So often, we are so busy and distracted, we cannot catch our breath, we cannot be fully present during this season. And so we miss the gift. Our lack of mindfulness prevents us from being fully present with others, and keeps us from experiencing God’s presence in our hearts.

Celebrating Christmas, even from a secular standpoint, involves some work. Baking, shopping, wrapping, planning. Add to those chores the pressure we feel as Christ followers to fight against the materialism that pervades, the guilt over not focusing on the “true meaning of Christmas” and the whole thing begins to feel unmanageable.

We feel rushed and crazy when we focus too much on Christmas past (hurts, mistakes, family squabbles, etc.) or on Christmas future (all the things we have to get done, whether the meal/gifts/travel will turn out well). Psychologically, people feel hurried if they are focused on the future or the past, instead of the present moment.

In order to focus on the present moment, we have to take a moment to breathe. To listen—and to tune in to the voice of love, rather than the voice of fear. In other words, to be present.

And what does that voice say? We can hear it in the pages of Scripture—God’s story and his word to us. In Luke 1:26-38, we read of the angel Gabriel’s incredible visit with Mary.

He told her four important truths, which are not only Gabriel’s words to Mary, but God’s word to us:

“You are highly favored.” Not because you’ve earned it, but because you are his child, God favors you. He’s especially fond of you.

“The Lord is with you.” You’re not alone. Reach out to him and you’ll find him, right there, right now.

“Do not be afraid.” So often our stress comes from the fear within us: fear of other people’s expectations, fear of not being good enough. What would living fearless look like this month?

“Nothing is impossible with God.” The key words in this phrase are “with God.” Lots of things are impossible, especially when we’re operating only on caffeine and adrenaline—in other words, under our own power. But when we allow God to work through us, we redefine priorities, we listen closely and receive his help and direction.

My Christmas prayer is that these words would resonate in your heart as you listen to the voice that brings you tidings of great joy.