It’s that time of year—when navigating the period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day presents an emotional mine field for many people. Almost everything we see in our culture tells us to be joyous, to celebrate, to spend money with wild abandon—all in order to have the happiest holiday season ever.
But for many of us, this season is bittersweet. Gatherings of family and friends make clear who will never again be part of those circles. Zoom and FaceTime help connect people across the world, but they can’t replace a hug from a loved one. Juggling bank accounts and credit card debt and Christmas lists adds to a sense of feeling overwhelmed. The soundtrack playing in the background isn’t “Joy to the World,” but “Christmastime Is Here,” as played in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Into this stressful mix, the Church offers us the gift of observing Advent.
Advent helps us to practice patiently waiting; to not rush headlong into Christmas Eve and think the Christmas season is over once the sun sets on Christmas Day. Advent invites us to pause; to breathe; to face our reality; to give thanks in all circumstances; and to learn how to be present in the moment, even when the moment is stressful or painful or uncertain.
During Advent, many churches offer Blue Christmas services that bring people together to lament, grieve, and support one another in seeking the Light during the longest nights of the year. Coming together with others who are struggling to find joy in this season can help bring a sense of peace.
Others may need more than that to find a path forward in this season. If you are in need of urgent help, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. If you are searching for other mental or spiritual health resources, please visit the MASH resource page.
We await the Lord’s coming into our hearts and lives just as he arrived on that first Christmas Day. Which means we should expect pain, joy, awe, and grief in this season of preparation, as we recognize that welcoming Jesus into our lives in a more conscious way means laying aside old patterns of behavior that no longer serve us as we grow in new ways to serve our Lord.
For the moment, let us pause, breathe, and ponder what Jesus means when he tells us to “Keep awake!” Moving forward into Advent, let us carry with us this petition from an Advent reflection entitled “The Gift of Hope” by the spiritual writer Joyce Rupp:
“God of Hope, Come! Enter into every human heart that cries out for a glimpse of your love, for a sign of your welcoming presence, for a taste of your happiness. Be the one who calms the restless and gentles the ache of the human journey.” (Joyce Rupp, Out of the Ordinary. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2000, p. 24.)
May you have a blessed Advent and a Merry Christmas!
—The Rev. Dr. Debra Brewin-Wilson
~ Photo by Caroline Carson
Mental & Spiritual Health Minute is brought to you by the Pastoral Mental & Spiritual Health Committee. For more mental & spiritual health resources visit our website NJMindSpirit.org