The next person who corrects me about eating (or not eating) a Christmas cookie is gonna get it. I’m done with the Rules about Food during the Holidays Conversation. Yesterday, a perfectly lovely acquaintance of mine warned me off of some Christmas-themed brownies and I almost went full blown Julia Sugarbaker on her. Don’t make me pull out the That Was the Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia speech.

Alas, this well-meaning soul is just struggling with the same consumptive anxiety that everyone deals with this time of year. We are all obsessed with what can and cannot put into our bodies. The media food machine is in hyper drive. The Today Show has one “Eat This Not That” food segment after another. If you’re not familiar, that’s when they show a plate of delicious food and all gasp at the calorie content, “600 calories for a glass of homemade Eggnog! I shouldn’t even look at that!”

Go ahead. Look. It’s not Satan. It’s just Eggnog. And please, for the love of all that is good and holy, stop naming yourself as “bad” for eating delicious food. I’m all for people naming themselves as sinners in a hurting world. But you eating a gingerbread cookie is not the same thing as you being an irate jackwagon on the internet. That’s sinful. Gingerbread is just molasses, flour, and sugar. Note the difference. And then listen to this sermon:

Of course, the rules exist because the holidays are a time when we tend to overeat. Not just because there’s extra opportunity to do so but because the amplified stress and strife (and in some cases loneliness) lead us to seek comfort in chocolate form. I have definitely done my fair share of walking into parties with the appetite of a pregnant triathlete. And the lights, booze, and Frank Sinatra can make you want to eat all the things. Fried cheese dipped in Velveeta? Yes, please. A chocolate fountain for Ritz crackers? Don’t mind if I do. Stale grocery store fruit cake? I’ll just toast it and add butter.

But let’s be honest about why we’re having the party in the first place. Let’s not act like overeating is what God had in mind when he made Jesus a poor kid who spent his first night in homelessness.

51fYVdXd1jL._SX383_BO1,204,203,200_I’m not calling for us to go either way on this whole thing. You want to have a Paleo Christmas? Go right ahead. More brie for me. Have you decided to eat exclusively red and green fried food for the week of December 25th? I’ll make a Pepcid AC run for you.

Just remember that Food Legalism comes to a high pitched crescendo this time of year because we all want to control what is happening. Instead of dealing with our avoidance of family, we focus on avoiding the cheese plate. Rather than facing the heartache of our first Christmas without a loved one, we eat a week’s worth of calories in one sitting. But it is all a failed project. We are trying to control the uncontrollable. To manage the unmanageable. And we’re so busy looking down at our angst ridden plates, that we miss the bright star that is right above our heads.

This is the season when heaven breaks through. It is chaotic, and beautiful, and brilliant. Because Advent is not just the season when we wait for the Christ Child to come, it is the season when we remember that Jesus is coming a second time. And that rule weary world will rejoice all over again.

This is the one of the tough things about being a Christian. In reality, we are quite short on rules. Instead, like everything that has to do with Jesus, love, grace, and forgiveness are the ingredients for the season. Which means that the best recipe for this time of year is also the hardest one:

Face the Infant King who has come to save us from the mess we’ve made. Forgive your mom. Forgive your boss. Because He came and forgave us all. Avoiders and indulgers alike. Those of us who cling to rules and those of us who say we don’t but still feel guilt. You, in other words. Me.

Which means you might as well hug the next person who tells you to stay away from the Christmas Cookies. They probably need it. Don’t listen to the Food Rules noise. Honestly, that might actually be evil at work, not the Eggnog. Tell that noise to go ride a sleigh.

The Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace has come to be our Rescuer. And he desires mercy, not sacrifice. Grace instead of control. Love in place of anger. Taste and see that Jesus has come to save us.