A HAPPY HANGOVER?
The Roots of Hangovers
Hangovers are not caused by drinking. They are caused by drinking too much of the wrong things. The keys to understanding the common hangover are in the word, "too much" and "wrong things." You could imbibe tap water from now till the Mississippi flows west and never develop a hangover. Furthermore, you could drink twice the prescribed four glasses a day and never suffer any staggering aftereffects. It takes too much of the wrong thing to produce a bona fide hangover.
Not very profound, you say?
But, please bear with me. I want to talk to you about a brand of hangover that has no connection whatever with the yuletide spirits generally responsible for all the bloodshot eyes so recently opened across our holiday-conscious nation.
I want to discuss the "Christian hangover" that gripped millions of us teetotalers in the wake of the festivities just past. The post-holiday 'blahs' left so many of us wondering what we have wondered for years: "Was it really wroth it?"
Please understand. I am not a Christmas hater. I feel no kinship with the crepehangers who insist that Christmas is essentially pagan in origin and such symbols as the Christmas tree are forbidden by Scripture. On the contrary, I like Christmas. It conjures sweet memories in my mind. It sends pleasant feelings coursing through me. Best of all, I am convinced that it gives Jesus Christ more free publicity than He gets at any other time of year.
No, Christian hangovers do not come from Christmas. They come from our misuse of Christmas. They come from too much of the wrong things.
So we experience a multi-dimensional aftermath.
The Financial Hangover
First of all, we spent too much. A friend told me shortly before Christmas, "It took us several months to get out of the debt we got ourselves into last Christmas." A very common comment. A very common condition. A terrible malady - "depletes walletus."
Next, we spent too much on the wrong things. The Bible makes it plain that Christians are to give to the poor and needy. We are to buy bread for the hungry, not trinkets for the fat and full. Gifts are a splendid symbol of love. They are a vivid reminder (or could be) of the greatest gift. But they are wrong if they blind us to the needs of people who cannot keep warm on Christmas night and hunger while we feast. "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food…notwithstanding yet give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth is profit?" James really says it all, doesn't he?
The Friendship Hangover
Just the other day I had the very gratifying experience of getting reacquainted with a friend of my high school days. We once played on the same football team. My hair is thin on top, and his is now white, but that did nothing to spoil the memories we shared. I hope that ours will be a continuing friendship, and that God will give us renewed opportunities to share Christ. But there is a vast difference between friendship for Jesus' sake. Christmas can be a time of being railroaded by our culture into incessant visiting of people who really do not need us around. Or, it can be a choice occasion for giving ourselves to people at a season when they are perhaps more receptive to Christian love than at any other time. This is friendship for Jesus' sake. But we protest, there are so many people, and we have relatively little time to visit them. This means that we must do some selective socializing - going to those whom we can help the most.
For instance, we have a friend who had just suffered the agonies of a divorce. It was to be his first Christmas without his wife and we wept inside for him. It did not take us long to conclude that we must modify some of our usual Christmas Day schedule. Others could certainly do without our presence. This man needed some friends on Christmas Day. We spent some of it with him.
The Fun Hangover
One of the simple lessons Christians must learn is that we do not hit the fun target when we aim directly at it. It is a lesson easily forgotten at Christmas. We can make elaborate plans for skiing, skating, games and football watching - jamming our days with a full agenda of things calculated to give us pleasure. Perhaps that is exactly what you did. And you discovered it wasn't nearly as hilarious as you had anticipated. In fact, it left you emotionally famished and spiritually depressed. You had a hangover when it was through. Why? Because fun, for a Christian, comes as a by-product of higher things. When we aim to please God we often glean enjoyment as an extra blessing.
We have found in our family that the most delightful times have often come when we are gathered together for Bible reading and prayer. Frequently a wave of amusement will sweep over us at the moment we kneel to pray. The very act of worship draws us together, prayer is postponed while we enjoy laughter and warm conversation. We consider God to be part of the circle and are convinced that He is laughing and chatting along with us. The wonderful thing about an occurrence of this kind is that it is not ever necessary to "shift gears" when we begin to pray. The prayer is simply a continuation of the fellowship we have been enjoying together.
The Food Hangover
"Too much of the wrong things." Here is the rule again. Everything is to be received with gratitude and eaten with pleasure. To eat in any other way would be a violation of Scripture. And three cheers for ingenious women who embellish their tables with special delicacies! But must their culinary craftsmanship be spoiled because of our gluttony? Certainly not!
I have a witty brother who often says facetiously to his wife at the conclusion of a fine meal, "There you did it again. You overfed me."
The problem was not overfeeding, but overeating. And we know it. We ingested such a fantastic assortment of contradictory sweets and sours, and in such quantities, that our unconditioned stomachs could scarcely cope with the bombardment. We closed our day with more Alka Selzer than thanksgiving. We had made "food-a-holics" of ourselves. The calorie binge ended; we had hangovers!
The Frustration Hangover
Too much traveling. Too much money gone. Too many late nights. Too many people around. Too much mess afterwards. Too many gifts to exchange. Too many pounds put on. Too much sadness when the kids had to go back to college. Too much. Too much. Too much of almost everything!
Result: An emotional hangover. And a bundle of new frustrations (or reruns on old ones).
"We wanted to really make Christmas a Christian event, and somehow we missed it again this year. We wanted to be sure to pray with the kids when they were home for the holidays, but we never seemed to get around to it. We wanted time for quiet talks with unconverted relatives, but it was impossible to get alone with any of them…"
The week before Christmas a coworker asked me, "Are you ready for Christmas?" Well, I'd seen too many people jumping about like a grasshopper with a hotfoot to want to "get ready" in the sense the term is usually used. If getting ready meant preparing for another holiday hangover, I wanted no part of it.
So I answered, "I refuse to get ready for Christmas. I rebel against the American Christmas!"
I would like to joint he revolution against the misuse of one of the greatest things which has ever been permitted in American society - the celebration of the birthday of God Incarnate.
It is a revolution against the nerve-racking, energy-sapping, Christ-neglecting extravaganza that has been passing itself off as a holy commemoration of a holy event. I want to take up arms against the yuletide banditry that wears out the saints and makes paupers of God's people. I want to stand against the commercially-produced fantasies which have no relation to heavenly realities. I want to resist the euphoria which makes sinners feel temporarily pious while still terribly proud.
I don't like being used by manipulators. I resent the marketing industry which plays upon our nebulous religious emotions for the express purpose of making another buck. I object to the networks trotting out their most renown Hollywood mate-swappers before the cameras and calling their efforts "Christmas Specials."
Now the grim tragedy of all this is not hard to perceive. We have been so used by the secularists that we had little time to be used by the Savior.
If we have holiday hangover, it means we have let ourselves be victimized one more time - commerce, custom, conditioning conspired to do it to us again.
Think of how different it might have been: Rich fellowship with God's people. Seasons of delightful worship. (Christmas is a great time to learn more about worshipping God. It is tailor-made for it.) Edifying conversations with children gathered in from far points for the holidays. Loving, intimate talks with relatives and neighbors who need Jesus and are willing to listen as never before. Rejuvenating recreation, and long, restful sleep, buoying us up for the return to daily duty. All this, and no bad aftereffects. No regrets. No hangovers.
Would you join me in making a binding resolution not to do too much of the wrong things next time around?
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