I haven’t written much here in this past season, but it’s been a wild several weeks learning of my dad’s cancer diagnosis and moving him in with us from California for hospice care. We are grateful to have this time with him, and we have great support from our Refuge community and family but it’s been a wild few weeks. I have shared a few posts on my personal blog that reflect some of my sentiments from Thanksgiving to today, if you want to check those out.
What’s been on my heart this week, though, is thinking about how hard the holiday season is for so many.
I personally like Christmas. I despise the commercialism and try to avoid stores at all costs starting from Thanksgiving on, but I do love the season. I still love the story of Jesus because of its upside-downness and the wild and wacky ways God-in-the-flesh entered into the world.
The Christmas story–like life–is one big fat paradox.
With all its good, I deeply respect that it also is a time of year where things go haywire for a lot of people I know. In fact, Thanksgiving to New Years Day is one of our trickiest seasons at The Refuge. While many other churches are getting geared up for the awesome Christmas service ahead, ours is feeling the reality of depression-and-loneliness that can be more pervasive in December. In talking to others who intersect with the margins, many say the same thing.
While the rest of the world is spinning toward the end of the year singing carols and 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 a radical faith shift and “I don’t even know what to make of Jesus anymore” and it’s even more complicated. Lonely. Weird. A stark reminder of how much we’ve changed. Easter can stir up some of these same feelings, sometimes even more with all the songs about blood and lambs.
No matter what our circumstances are this season–practical or faith-based– I want to honor here that these times in the year can be extra hard, weird, 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 probably intersect with family. For some, it is a happy time and you are glad 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 or the wide gap in our political differences (especially this year!).
Life is flying by. Another 12 months has come and gone and here we are, one year older and one less year left to pursue some of our dreams. Or we wonder if those desires will only ever be dreams.
We want more connection with God but we aren’t sure how to get it anymore. Because of shifting faith and losing all we once held dear, 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 and anticipation; yet, for many, hope feels dangerous. The political climate has added a whole new set of traumas for many, and the thought of another year of brutality makes us even more hesitant to hope.
I’m sure there are many more that you could add.
I promise no trite answers or simple advice but I do have a hope for those who struggle with Christmas: That somehow, some way, we could experience slivers of joy, peace, love, hope, and grace in the midst of the hard.
Sometimes making Christmas less hard will mean intention and trying things we might not feel comfortable trying. Some friends of mine have made wise plans to fight depression’s pull. It looks different for each of us and could mean making plans even when we don’t feel like it, finding ways to laugh, trying to find some sacred space outside in nature or somewhere special and life-giving, making an extra appointment with our therapist, or finding ways to care for others in a tangible way.
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. But maybe what we can do is take time to notice the hurting, the hungry, the lonely, the disconnected and bring some laughter, food, beauty, joy, fun, love, help, or hope in some small way.
To me, that’s the best reflection of Christmas.
Love and hope from Colorado today, Kathy