when christmas is hard.
i like christmas. i am not crazy about the commercialism and try to avoid stores at all costs starting from thanksgiving on, but i do love the season. i love the story of Jesus because of its upside-downness & the wild and wacky ways he entered into the world as God-in-the-flesh. i love the intentional focus and celebrating each week of advent.
at the same time, i deeply respect that it is a time of year where things start to go haywire for a lot of people i know. in fact, thanksgiving begins one of our darkest seasons at the refuge. while other churches are getting geared up for the awesome christmas service ahead, ours is feeling the reality of depression-and-loneliness-for-many to start setting in. it’s an interesting phenomenon and in talking to others who intersect with the margins, many say the same thing. while the rest of the world is spinning toward the holidays singing christmas carols & going to fun parties, there are a whole bunch of people hanging on by a thread.
at the same time, regardless of life-struggles-in-general, throw in spiritual shifts and “i don’t even know what to make of Jesus anymore” and it’s even more complicated. and lonely. and a reminder sometimes of how much we’ve changed. when i wrote when easter is hard earlier this year i had no idea it would stir up so many feelings far & wide. my guess is that christmas isn’t quite as hard as a holiday as easter for a lot of people in the midst of changing faith, but it still can be tricky. at christmas we sing more songs about peace on earth and good will to men and less songs about blood and the lamb so that might make it a little easier for some.
no matter what our circumstances are–practical or faith-based– i want to honor that these times in the year can be extra hard, extra weird, extra lonely.
the christmas season can remind us that:
we aren’t where we wish we were. we don’t have money, partners, kids, health, security, friends, community, healing, sobriety, you-name-its that we thought we would at this point and that can feel so discouraging.
we feel alone. some of us feel lonely in the relationships we are in, while others feel lonely because we don’t have them at all.
our families are tricky (or i am guessing you might have other words for it, ha ha!) or nonexistent. no matter how we slice it, holidays are a time where we intersect with family. for some, it is a happy time and you are happy to see each other while for others, families bring up feelings of dread and anxiety. for many, there’s no home to go to and we are painfully reminded of our orphanness or the harsh realities of divorce and single parent-ness.
life is flying by. another year has come and gone and here we are, one year older and one less year left to pursue some of our dreams. and then sometimes we wonder about our dreams.
we want more connection with God but we aren’t sure how to get it anymore. we might not have a church or community that feeds us like before or feels safe enough to even walk into. often, we can’t seem to muster it up on our own so our connection with God just feels…empty.
we are scared of hope. this season is a time of hope & anticipation and for a lot of us, hope feels dangerous.
i am sure there are many others, but these are some of the top of my head today. i promise no trite answers or simple advice but i do have a hope for those who struggle with christmas–that some how, some way, more light can seep in. i have hope that all of us experience more slivers of joy & peace & love & hope & grace over the next month. slivers of light are sometimes small miracles in and of themselves, God’s little revelations and reminders that we’re not alone, that he is with us.
sometimes making christmas less hard will mean intention and trying things that we might not feel comfortable trying. i was talking to a friend today who really struggles with the holidays and feels extra-lonely; he was telling me he had a clear plan to hang out as much as possible with safe, energizing people and stay really busy to fight against depression’s pull. it looks different for each of us and could mean making plans with others, finding any way to laugh, trying to find some sacred space in a church or outside in nature or somewhere special & life-giving, making an extra appointment with our therapist, or finding ways to serve others that helps turn our ingrown eyeballs out. i think the best question to consider “what little steps can we possibly take that lift our heads and hearts and bring some relief.”
and for those who love christmas, don’t feel guilty about it. (that can sometimes happen and you might even be feeling that as you are reading!). but maybe what we can do is take time out of our month to notice the hurting, the hungry, the lonely, the disconnected and bring some laughter, food, beauty, joy, fun, love, or hope, in some small way. i have a feeling that’s the real meaning of christmas.
have a good weekend. i’ll be thinking of you, praying for light. love, kathy
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for the next three fridays to guide this when-christmas-is-hard-series for formation friday, i am going to use the 3 prayers from anne lamott’s most recent book–help, thanks, wow: the three essentials prayers. oh, that book been good for my soul lately & i hope it can bring some light here, too.