|Christmas Eve 2011|
Sixteen days until Christmas. Well, until Christmas Day anyways. Seven more days until my first family Christmas gathering which is taking place earlier than normal this year. Until this morning, my heart has not truly been in the Christmas spirit. I had been trying very hard, but the distractions in my life have kept pulling me away from the spirit of the season. The one that encompasses peace.
As a child, Christmas was always magical and some of that magic became lost on me an an adult. The reasons varied. I was in a marriage with someone who came to despise the holiday shortly after we married and as the years went by, the likelihood of ever sharing the magic of Christmas with children of my own diminished. However that began to change right around the time I separated from my ex. At that point, I had been going to church on a regular basis for a few years and I had found the true spirit of Christmas. The meaning of it had changed for me as now I had begun to appreciate the holiness of the season; the impact of what we were celebrating. I began to use the Christmas season as a time to reflect and as a time to be able to spend more time volunteering to help those in need. To me, that was the way to honor Jesus's birth.
This year's Christmas season has been different for me because until today, despite the fact that our tree is up and the Christmas carols have been playing, my mind and spirit have been elsewhere. This is not necessarily all my fault. I have missed participating in some pre-Christmas activities because of my health but even more significantly, my mind has been cluttered and overwhelmed with so much chaos. Thoughts of medical decisions I need to make, doctor's appointments, tests, medications, family illnesses, car troubles, interpersonal drama, my partner's work stress, finances. Every day, my mind and my soul have been riddled with sheer anxiety.
I did have a glimpse of Christmas spirit last weekend when we were in Boston spending some time shopping and doing the tourist thing. As we were in a section of Boston called Downtown Crossing, I stood in the street at an intersection outside of Macy's where I was surrounded by Christmas music, lights, and a beautiful snowfall. For a minute, I felt some peace. And then it was gone.
But this morning I walked into my church for the first time in several weeks. It was also the first time I have seen it decorated for Christmas this year. The beauty of my church always overwhelms me at this time of year. It's a simple church meaning that there are no gold statues or ornate decorations. No large stained glass windows. At Christmastime, there is the large Christmas tree in the corner, the poinsettias sitting in their rightful place at the front of the church, and the large red banners that hang from the magnificent church windows that read words like joy, peace, hope, and love. And the people. Most people I haven't been able to see in several weeks as I have struggled to recover from my latest health crisis. People who hug me and hold me like I matter. Like my family does. Like Jesus would.
I feel my anxiety lessen and for the first time in weeks, I experience true peace.
This is the beginning of my Christmas season.
So despite all of the uncertainties in my life and in the world around me, I will try and take this peace with me through the next few weeks. I will protect it with a fierceness so that this year, not only can I possibly bring peace to others with my words and deeds but perhaps to myself as well.
Photo Courtesy of: Chuck Myers