Note from The Thoughtful Pastor: I wrote this last year, and thought it might be helpful advice again. My newspaper column runs on Christmas Day this year, so hold these thoughts until then–or until you need them!
‘Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house
all the creatures were bloated, down to the last mouse.
The boxes were scattered, empty and bare
in hopes that the trash man soon would be there.
The children were fighting over stuff in their beds
while visions of escape danced in their heads.
And Mama in her bathrobe and I in my cap,
are hoping for football or a long quiet nap.
Yep, the day after Christmas, or even Christmas afternoon, the post-holiday letdown often sees even the most cheery people melt to grumpiness.
The days or weeks of preparation, the arrival of or travel to family, the last minute frenzy to deal with all the things forgotten–well, there is an inevitable let-down.
Idealized paintings of holiday gatherings along with the plethora of holiday movies, all of which end in perfect delight and happiness, tend to leave us with a somewhat unrealistic view of Christmas family gatherings.
Most gatherings combine fun, gifts, memories, worship, and relaxation. But often tensions arise. More, the best of plans go wrong, people get sick, cars break down, too much food, drink and simple exhaustion can take their toll.
I offer a few suggestions for post-Christmas malaise.
Remember that no two people ever get along perfectly. Ever. Or if they say they do, then one of them is probably stretching the truth just a bit. So, go ahead and forgive all your friends and relatives and the stuff they did to drive you crazy or hurt your feelings. Right now. Let it go. Remember, you cannot forcibly change the behavior or beliefs of others.
If something just didn’t work, or if a series of similar gatherings ended up in discomfort for many, consider different options for the next year. It may be time to change some unwritten rules (most families have a series of these!) that are causing more harm than good.
When the time comes to remove your decorations, choose gratefulness for each ornament you put away. Take your time, admire the beauty and savor the memory of those decorations.
If you resent doing this, then just give them to someone who will appreciate them. Remember, these things are not sacred objects. You will not face eternal punishment if you dispose of a few.
Spend those gift cards and other Christmas money immediately. Do it now. It really is important to shop this time of the year because this is what keeps our economy going. A little extravagance, especially if you are slightly grumpy, can go a long way. Plus, too many gifts cards are never redeemed. Don’t make that mistake.
Set aside 10% of what you received or a gift card you might not use and donate these funds to some well-run charity. You’ll feel wonderful later. Remember that there are genuinely hungry, cold and desperate people around, even after Christmas. Or even especially after Christmas when they tend to be forgotten.
Consider one more time the words that Mary, mother of Jesus, spoke when she learned she was pregnant. Her words remind us that that gift of the Child to this poor, unmarried woman displays God’s love and compassion toward the powerless and hungry.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed; the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm and has scattered the proud in their conceit, casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, to remember his promise of mercy, The promise made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children for ever.
Let’s now rewrite that last of that classic poem this way:
We complained not a word but went straight to our work
And filled all the boxes, not an item will lurk
Setting aside time to stop and smell roses
Our spirits then freed and cheered up our noses.
We spring for the day, to our team give a whistle
And our burdens all fly like the dawn of a thistle.
So we exclaim as we consider the sight,
Of charity bounding and more to see light.
All questions for The Thoughtful Pastor are welcome. You can email your questions firstname.lastname@example.org, “like” her Facebook Page, usethis form to send them or message her on Twitter. You can also send a question through conventional mail to the following address: Thoughtful Pastor, 314 E. Hickory St., Denton, TX, 76202.
[Note: a version of this column is slated to appear in the Friday, December 15, 2015 print and online editions of The Denton Record Chronicle.]