December 8, 2011

All is Merry and Bright - or Maybe Not So Much?

Christmas memories can be the best or the worst, and the emotions tied to them are certain to be amplified this time of year.

If the holidays bring unhappy memories, how do we cope with the flood of feelings that are dammed up behind our happy facade? We may feel we need to put on a happy face for those around us, when deep inside our sorrow shows.

There seems to be an expectation for everyone to be jolly this time of year. Just listening to the holiday music, nine out of ten songs is upbeat and happy. Some are over the top, almost manic, like “We Need a Little Christmas” which races around decorating “before my spirit falls again”.  What we need “right this very minute” is a little peace amidst the chaos.

The reality may feel more like Judy Garland’s version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (from Meet Me in St. Louis). Singing to her little sis, lamenting a move that would take them far from loved ones, the feeling is melancholy as she looks to the future for happier times. By the way, the more familiar version of the song, made popular by Frank Sinatra, is more upbeat with a change in the lyrics. After all, his album was to be called “A Jolly Christmas”!

There does seem to be a holiday song for every emotion. Perhaps you are dreaming of a “White Christmas” as I was after a move to California. Many secular Christmas songs deal with love at Christmastime, and if you are not in a relationship, these can be hard to bear.

The sacred Christmas songs speak of promise and peace. Once again, I turn to my faith for the solace I seek. This promise of a Christ child, the Prince of Peace. The sweet song “Away in the Manger” over three verses tells the Christmas story beautifully, with a prayer for God to be near us always.

When we are overwhelmed with feelings of sadness or inadequacy during the preparations for this season, God is the one we need to turn to. When our hearts are heavy, He is the only one who can provide His perfect peace. There are no simple answers to deal with holiday grief. Perhaps, like Judy, we feel we need to believe in happier tomorrows. Instead of thinking “until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” maybe we should think like Frank and “hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”

“And have yourself a merry little Christmas, now.”  Now. Not just looking to the future for better times. Let’s try to look to the present for a small joy. Today.

Make it point to find something to be joyful about, something to be thankful for. There are those little moments in the day, when the sun hits the snow and it sparkles like diamonds, or when a child shows you unconditional love; or the moment when a stranger shares a smile with you, that you can believe in peace on earth.

Our sorrows will diminish with time, but we need to live fully in the present. It may feel like the holidays are just something we have to get through. But if we search out reasons to be thankful, there may be little joys hidden amongst the trappings of the season.

Go for a walk and breathe in the cold, crisp air. Look for signs of wildlife foraging in the frozen world. If you are in a warmer clime, appreciate the subtle changes in the world around you. Find your center. Pray for God’s peace.

There is joy to be found amidst our sorrows; hope even though we think all is hopeless. Turn to the One who can show you the way out of your doldrums.  Ask for His help and tell Him of your need. He will open your eyes to the beauty that is around you. He will point you on the pathway to finding peace.

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