Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry & Bright (or not)

Over the last 5 years, I believe I have always taken time to write a Christmas blog. This beautiful season elicits so many memories. Even tho' it starts much earlier than it did in my childhood, it still goes too fast for me. Even tho' I am too old for Santa, I will always love him. I think grief often causes the depression that so many feel this time of year. That's not rocket science, but I think the reality of the hurting people around us needs to be noted at the very least.

The stress of this season on top of the stress people already feel is too much for some... the spending, the baking, Christmas programs, shopping, wrapping, Christmas cards, decorations, family gatherings (or no family to gather), losses, sickness, expectations (some filled with dread), & so much more. Add that to whatever a loved one is already going through, & it's a good recipe for emptiness, sadness, or anxiety.

Over the last few days, I have heard 2 loved ones say sad things about what they are feeling. One hates Christmas; the other just wants it to be over. It breaks my heart that what is meant to be a lovely time of year is in fact not lovely at all. The very first Christmas was filled with much hardship & stress. A teenage girl was told she would give birth to Our Savior. Problem was, she was not yet married & would be considered a disgrace to society. Her betrothed, Joseph, had to make a terrible decision. If he left her, who would do his job? Who would care for her? If he stayed with her, he would be a disgrace too.

God put in place proof for those who would seek. There was Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, who would give  birth to her son, John the Baptist, 3 months earlier than Mary would deliver Jesus in a dirty place with smelly animals & prickly straw.  He would prepare the way of the Lord in his adult life. There was the bright star in the East which would later lead the 3 wise men to Jesus. The Old Testament was filled with prophecies that would teach us much about the birth of Christ. With all the proof that existed, which is far more than what I just noted, there were still skeptics.

If you are struggling this Christmas, I encourage you to simplify. You don't have to accomplish everything on your list. I no longer send cards, & for the first time ever, I am not baking Christmas cookies. I asked a friend to help me wrap my gifts. I started the month feeling overwhelmed. Simplifying has relieved much stress. As for sadness, losses, the things that make us depressed at Christmas, I make sure to focus on the birth of Our Savior. I allow my mind to linger into areas of sadness, but I cannot resist thinking about the true & beautiful reason for this most wonderful (or most stressful) time of year.

Lastly, doing a kindness for another person or family warms the heart faster than any therapy I know. Be Santa for a struggling family. Shop for a child who has a parent(s) in prison. Help someone wrap their gifts. Bake someone fudge. Pay it forward in a drive-thru. Drop a bill or 2 in the Salvation Army bucket. Visit a nursing home & deliver pretty Christmas cards to the residents. Go caroling. Take a meal to a homeless person, or even a warm blanket, or a coat. Share the Christmas story with a child. Pray for someone. Make a list of all the good you can do, & then do the top 3. Clean someone's home. Do their laundry. Grocery shop for them. Help out at a soup kitchen. Babysit for free. Whatever you do, do it in the true Spirit of the season. See if it doesn't end up brightening your own Christmas too.