I thank God for my wife because it can’t be easy to be married to me.
On Christmas Day last year, we were driving to Dallas to spend the holiday with her family. At the time, our youngest son was one and our oldest was almost four. We hadn’t been driving far and we were still going through the mental checklists making sure we hadn’t forgotten anything, there was fussing and crying coming from the back seat, and a liquid I hoped was milk was now covering our youngest.
The time of crisis had passed and we had made it as far south as Norman. We’d just started to decompress and discuss how hectic this time of year is when my wife commented on how it only seems to get more challenging the older our kids get. Then being the ray of sunshine I am, I said, “You know we should be grateful for this because we only get to do this maybe 15 more times.” Kinsie asked me to explain, and I said, “Well, we only have 15 more Christmases before our oldest is probably out of the house and this phase of having all of our kids together with us at Christmas will be over.”
(My backup career plan, if ministry doesn’t work out for me, is to write inspirational cards).
My comment did not have the desired effect of helping both of us appreciate the moment more, even in spite of the chaos associated with it, but it instead led both of us to just being sad. Now eventually we did end up having a good laugh about it, and the holiday went well, but there is truth in this. Many of us end up missing out on the present in this Christmas season because we consumed by what all “has to” get done, how Christmas use to be, how it should be and yet never seems to become, or just how fleeting it is.
In my experience in the church, I have come to appreciate the feeling of sadness is much more common than most of us are willing to admit. While children can become easily excited about the impending arrival of presents, for many adults, our attention can drift to remembering those who are no longer with us, either because of death or estrangement. We can think about how Christmas was, and yet how it will never be again. In all of this, we cannot only miss the hope, peace, joy, and love Christmas can offer, but we can ultimately end up dreading it.
In my opinion there are three ways we can address this:
- Denial—pretend everything is fine, put a good face on it, and cry in the shower where no one can see your tears.
- Self-Medicate—whether it is food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, or sex, whatever feels good and can take our mind off of these negative feelings that is the way to go.
- Face It—acknowledge our feelings—whatever they are—in a constructive and open manner so healing can occur. In acknowledging them, whatever they may be, in a healthy and productive manner healing begins to be possible so we can experience the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christmas again.
(Sarcasm isn’t easily conveyed in the written word, so please know I do not encourage 1. or 2.)
Here at St. Paul’s, we are going to have a Service of Healing and Hope this Sunday, December 6, at 5:00pm where we are going to acknowledge the brokenness many of us are experiencing and seek the healing, wholeness, and restoration that Jesus Christ offers so that we can seek to again enjoy the true blessings this Christmas season can offer. Please join us.
Rev. Kris Tate