Have you ever noticed that as the bell-ringing Salvation Army Santas show up on street corners, the plastic holly & the colored lights decorate store windows and the canned music everywhere pushes out Christmas carols – you start to feel … kind of negative? My first response is a kind of deflation – that the wave of commercialization is trying to obliterate the essence of the feast of Christ’s birth. Because all this starts up in October, it is a stretch to get into the holiday spirit.
Before we arrive in the Advent and Christmas season, we have celebrated Thanksgiving. Here the emphasis is on giving thanks as well as family gettogethers. “Where are you spending Thanksgiving?” is a common question. Implied in these holiday times is that everyone will gather with friends and family, and a wonderful sense of unity, happiness, sharing, dining and thanks will prevail. At least that is the Hallmark card version. In reality, for many folks, these holidays do not bring a sense of happiness and gratitude.
There are so many stories of families and individuals in difficulty, strained by countless incidents and situations. Whether it is someone out of a job, the loss of a loved one, an uncertain element in a marriage or relationship, children in trouble, illness and aging, addictions, or depression, for many the holidays can be anything but a “happy” time.
Finding a way to cope is the highest priority for some – just to survive the holiday season intact becomes a real goal. So perhaps for all of us, it makes sense to realize and accept that this wonderful season of the year brings with it certain stresses and demands. Each of us needs to acknowledge our limits and own the situations of our families and friends. It is OK to give oneself permission to NOT feel there is something wrong if one does not want to sing Ho – Ho – Ho!
The consequence for many who experience the pressure of this time of year is to feel painfully alone and maybe disconnected from others. All around one sees people together and apparently happy and celebrating and for some that is not their experience. Acknowledging that it is OK to feel out of step with what the culture says “ought to be” often helps. Giving voice to our sadness in conversations with good friends eases one’s struggle.
Even more, bringing my pain, sadness, loneliness and struggle to God in prayer offers one the deepest source of comfort. Through prayer, one can come to recognize that one is not alone; that God who promises to be with us always is truly there regardless of how we feel. Then we can begin to remember that we, too, have experienced goodness before and will again. So even in the midst of life’s pains and struggles, often we can find reason to give thanks. The celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ truly is cause for joy – for all people in all times.
This holiday season any one of us can find moments when loneliness seems more painful in the light of the season. When such moments occur, take them as invitations to turn to God in humble prayer and your aloneness will give way to a peace and a sense of the goodness that is inherent in these holiday times.
December 12 ~
Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)
“Shout for joy.” “Sing joyfully.” “Be glad and exult with all your heart.”
“Rejoice, in the Lord always.”
The message this week is clear; joy must be a sign of our life in Christ.
We need to bring the light of Christ to these dark
December days and speak a word of hope to our world – the Lord is near.”
With each remaining day in Advent, make the gospel acclamation your prayer:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.”
Believing this and acting on it, the light of Christ will certainly shine through you!