December 18, 2014
It's Not Just the Grinch Who's Unhappy at Christmas!
I love Christmas, it's my favorite time of year! Yet, as a pastor for many years, I'm very cognizant there are quite a few people in our community, our neighborhood, even our family for whom Christmas is a very difficult time. Two very close friends have recently died and my wife and I are especially mindful of their widowed spouses--this will be a very difficult Christmas for them both--the first without their life-long partner. Someone has been diagnosed with a terminal illness--this will be her last Christmas here among us. Our friends in alcohol recovery often find this a very difficult time: so many parties, so much access to alcoholic beverages and too often too little attention to providing attractive alternatives. Our Jewish friends, especially those who are observant and for whom cultural accommodations like "Hannukah bushes" and seasonal cards don't seem appropriate, will find this a difficult season. Then there are all those who are lonely for whatever reason: those alienated from their families, those recently separated or divorced, those who live far from family and friends, those who have been forgotten or overlooked. Persons who have a history of depression or are currently feeling depressed will not find it easy to feel the joy, hope, and happiness of this season. The homeless and destitute will find this time of year challenging, especially those who live in this hemisphere where cold and snow complicate their already complicated lives.
There are lots of people right around us for whom Christmas presents challenges. If you are blessed, as I am, in delighting in this season, then we have a responsibility to be inclusive and mindful of those around us who are not similarly blessed. Think about it. Who in your family, in your neighborhood, in our Church might be having an especially difficult time right now. How about giving them a friendly call? How about inviting them over to see the tree or share a cup of coffee or have a meal? How about sending them some flowers, offering them a ride, offering to be their friend? Instead of cheerily wishing them, "Have a merry Christmas," might we say, "I know this is a difficult time for you, you're very much in my thoughts and prayers." Years ago, I went to visit a parishioner in the hospital on Christmas afternoon. His family lived too far away to visit. He looked up from the bed surprised. "Why aren't you home with your family?" he inquired. "You're part of my family," I said squeezing his hand. His eyes brimmed with tears and I felt a wonderfully warm sensation rising up within me, reminding me yet again of what kinds of things make Christmas joyful--the many ways we share love with others in Jesus' name!