I came home today from spending a few days with my parents – it was a good visit and one that allowed me some time for reflection. It’s very easy to get caught up in the hullabaloo of the holidays, especially the way Americans have “done” Christmas since WW2. (This article does a lovely job of explaining how consumerism took deep root in the American holiday psyche, as well as explaining the difference between “Advent/Christmas” and “retail Christmas.” It’s well worth the read.) I find it difficult to carve out time to sit and ponder, but I also have seen the benefits of making that a regular part of my everyday life.
My conclusion? It’s hard out there. People are struggling – with loss, with financial worries, with splintered relationships, with anger, with anxiety, and many, many other burdens. Maybe it’s worse at this time of year, surrounded as we so often are with the “happy and clappy” trappings of holiday cheer. This is the reason behind the “blue Christmas” liturgy and service that many faith traditions are beginning to embrace. In my town, the local Episcopal church is having a “Blue Christmas” service late this Sunday afternoon. For me, this is new – what I’ve read about these services intrigues me (start here and here) and I plan to attend as a way to honor those who are walking hard paths this season. I like that it takes place on the Sunday closest to the Winter Solstice, which marks the longest night of the year (and, inversely, also marks the returning of light in the midst of the darkness). I like that it’s a time to honor the solemnity of the season, in contrast to the bells, Santa hats, and “ugly sweater” parties. (Is anything more consumerist than that? If so, I haven’t found it.)
A friend read one of my posts recently and it resonated with the conflict she was feeling about the season and the urge to rushrushrush – I received this lovely ornament in the mail today. It promptly found a place of honor on the tree where it will serve as a reminder to Just. Slow. Down.
I urge you – Christmas is less than a week away. Take some time to appreciate the quiet of the season, in whatever form that works for you.
Just stop. Listen for a moment.
That’s your heartbeat.
What’s it urging you to do?