Good morning and Merry Christmas.
I received an email from a client who was struggling with many of the hurts that holiday expectations can bring to the surface. She asked if I had any words of encouragement for her before Christmas arrived…any thoughts that I could share that might help her get through the holiday and weekend. The following is what resulted as I typed a reply to the same inquiry last Christmas. As the question often comes up during the holidays, I thought it good to revisit my reply of last year.
I’m not sure it is all that wise (as I can be a bit over-the-top) and it is definitely optimistic and even a bit schmaltzy…but I do believe it to be a good chunk of thought provoking composition. I wanted to share it with you – in the hopes that you could be gently reminded that the Gift of Christmas is for everyone – even you!
Have a blessed Christmas and may it be filled with the light of God’s gift of love – for you!
As I wrote last year…
I’m not sure how wise any words I have at this time of the day could possibly be! But…I will try.
First, let me share a thought that came to me this weekend while watching the movie The Nativity. (Have you seen it? It is in DVD now and I bought it. It may not be completely Biblical, but it is lovely and very touching. Yes, I cried!) Anyway…in the movie, when Mary is told that she is to be the mother of Jesus, she is troubled by the realities of her culture. She is not married, she is betrothed, and she is now pregnant – surely she could be a possible victim to the ‘justice’ of the time – death by stoning. There is a scene where she doesn’t know what to do or where she can go to get the loving support she knows she needs. She then thinks of Elizabeth.
As Mary arrives to visit Elizabeth, Elizabeth greets her with the knowledge that she knows Mary is with child – and a glorious child at that. There was no judgment in Elizabeth’s greeting – no criticism –no condemnation – just love. So much love, that Elizabeth shared that the child she carried (John the Baptist) leapt for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. They were happy Mary was there.
It was clear in the movie that Mary didn’t believe she would receive the support she needed from her immediate family nor her community. So, she sought the support she needed elsewhere – she went searching for it outside of what felt like the relationships from where she “should” have been able to embrace it – she sought the support she needed from her cousin, Elizabeth. She actively looked for the gifts that God was providing outside of what “should” be the norm – what is naturally expected.
What are your expectations – your “shoulds?”
This piece of our Christmas story has never struck me as deeply as it did this weekend. What a beautiful example of keeping our eyes open for God’s gifts when so many doors seem to be shut. Are we open to receiving? Are we looking for those blessings that may be missed because what “should be” just is falling short of our longings/our expectations/of what we desire?
That hurt sometimes is so incredibly overwhelming that we lose sight of the good because the bad feels so incredibly heavy. The scene from this movie shone as a beacon of hope for me this weekend. For every door that is closed, another will open – God does promise He is always there for us. Am I open to receiving the promise of His love? Are you?
Is the magnifying glass distorting what is true?
Holiday seasons and special occasions often act as a magnifying glass – reminding us of the doors that have shut so painfully hard. These ‘special’ days seem to bring attention to the fact that we are struggling with hurts/pains/voids in our lives. It is important that we remember that today is really no different than two weeks ago – it is just that darn magnifying glass. Remove that lens and try to look for all of the new, open doors that you may be missing. How is God trying to reach you? How is He trying to share His love with you?
Look around you…is there someone in your office that seems to be alone? Invite them to a special day/evening with you. Go to a movie, have dinner, make dinner, play games, etc. Do you see someone or some people at church that may also be feeling the impact of that magnifying glass this holiday season? Invite them to join you as well. The more the merrier! Reaching out, in and of itself, often times serves as the tool we need to remove the impact of that magnifying glass that distorts the reality of our lives.
Practice some self-care!
Have a party – for many or for only you! Do something special, rent a good movie, fix a fine meal, have a glass of champagne or sparkling grape juice in a real champagne glass – add a ribbon – doll up the festivity.
Write a “Why my life is wonderful” list or story. Write a “thank you” letter to God. Take some deliberate time and look for those open doors in your life. What about you do you love? It is like taking an inventory of you and your life. I promise you there are good things and happy things there – what are they? Take a moment to identify them. Are you missing them because that magnifying glass is having you focus in another direction – distorting the reality of the gift of you? Focus on the good – it is there – look for it.
God’s promise is for you!
It is a hard time to be single and/or feeling alone/ or missing someone – especially in our society. We do feel the pressure of all of the “what should be’s” and we can feel the burden. It would serve all of us well to focus on the lesson of Mary this holiday season. If we do not have the love and support of the people we “should” be able to count on during the holidays, let’s seek it out somewhere else. Even if it means we have to travel outside of the familiar and move into the unknown. God promises He is there to help us with this journey – He will provide – He is always here for us – always!
I know that at some level this may sound like a bunch of ‘corny’ suggestions (I can come up with those!) – but they do help remove the power of the magnifying lens. Know that much of what you are hurting from is only magnified right now – distorted as a result of the focus on holiday expectations – let’s remove that lens – as best we can!
Take care…and much like Mary – “ponder these things in your heart.” Your heart is where some of God’s best work is done! That is where God loves to be!
Have a blessed Christmas!