When most of us think about Christmas, we associate it with gift giving, family time and great food. What many hope for at Christmas is a greater sense of peace and well-being for ourselves, our neighbours, as well as for the world. The specific joy of Christmas is when we see all these things come together in specific instances and events that touch and transform our lives.
Author and work/life coach Don Joseph Goewey has experienced this and describes it in a recent article as his “best Christmas ever.” For a long time he had been cynical of Christmas, as well as resentful of the money his wife spent on gifts for their children. He dreaded the Visa card bill in January, and clearly gave everyone a hard time over the holiday season. As he described it, “I wasn’t much fun to have around.”
Then shortly after American Thanksgiving last year he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and an operation was scheduled for the new year. The doctor warned him of ensuing disabilities and the lower quality of life he should expect due to the surgery. This left him overwhelmed with fear and a sense of hopelessness. He would sit late into the night, feeling terrified of the whole drama and feeling helpless as he thought about his future. Then one night, in his darkest moment, he realized that fear of the future was governing his present day experience. He decided he needed to be alert to every terror, and specifically, consciously not believe what he was fearing. He wrote:
“I made the decision, right then and there, to work at letting go of fear whenever it raised its ugly head and to strengthen my willingness to be at peace as I faced whatever I had to face that day. I found that choosing peace wasn’t as hard as I thought. Stress and fear were hard. Peace actually made the day easier, better.”
He began to think about the qualities that peace brings. One of those is an open-minded love that does not criticize or judge others – something he did a lot of. He began to check himself each time he was tempted to criticize. And, as he found his attitude changing from criticism to acceptance, he also realized the misery he had caused others over the years, and felt so guilty of his actions. That’s when he discovered another quality of peace – forgiveness. He learned to forgive himself and others.
The result of this transformation of his thinking and behavior, he said, was the most peaceful, joyous Christmas he or his family ever experienced. Additionally, the operation earlier this year was a success, and he says he was left with none of the disabling effects the doctors had expected and predicted.
Goewey calls his life-changing experience a mind-body connection.
However, I’ve observed similar changes in those who seek healing through prayer. And these character changes are far deeper than a human, psychological shift. Maybe they actually involve glimpses of something that was always true about each of us that we didn’t yet see.
The celebration of the birth of Jesus encourages us to deeply ponder this point and accept our ability to be transformed. Then we are open to the healing effect of divine Love.
Christmas, when unwrapped and thought about this way, isn’t about Santa Claus, magic elves or flying reindeer – fun though these are. It is about our ability to be changed and healed, not just at a specific time of year, but at anytime and for anyone – and of any illness. That’s a Christmas package worth opening.
This article was published in the Vancouver Sun