Christmas! Ah . . . the word conjures up a whole world of thoughts, emotions and events for many people. These remembrances are as varied as the Christmas decorations you see all around. This is the time of year that people love, but also when they often feel the most stressed. Financial stress, time stress, food stress, relationship stress and so on. Is this really what Christmas has become? People even tell me they suffer from “holiday stress,” as if it’s an illness. I wonder how we got to this point!
Instead of debating and wondering about the origin, I have taken a stand over the last few years: stress is not invited or welcome to my Christmas! Not invited? That’s right. It is a conscious decision every day this month.
So what does this look like?
Well for one thing, contrary to all the escalating activities around me, I slow down. I keep my attendance at Christmas functions to a manageable level, rather than try to please everyone, which does mean bravely turning down some invitations. We have also minimized gift giving as a family, choosing instead to spend time with one another in special ways, now and throughout the year.This one decision cuts out those horrendous hours scouring the stores and waiting in long lines for something to buy my great Aunt Minnie for example. Maybe what great Aunt Minnie would really like, is for me to spend that same number of hours taking her out to lunch and being a companion for an afternoon this December. Since when did giving presents supplant giving precious moments with each other? This is a time when I can learn to hone my communication skills more carefully, love more forgivingly, and listen more deeply.
As well as taking a new line in giving to others, I increase my activity in other ways. I get out for walks and bike rides through the calm crisp air. And most of all, I spend time in contemplation and prayer. This is where I can feel at peace – feel close to God in a calmness that pervades all that I do – allowing me to enjoy and appreciate my family and friends more fully, by being really with people, rather than being only partially present in a distracted and stressed way. It is during such moments that I can also see new ways to do things, so I don’t keep repeating the same stress inducing mistakes every year.
Take your moments
But many of us feel that we don’t have time for prayer or meditation as we rush busily from one activity to another demand. Well, on your way to your next Christmas activity, just see if you can slow down even a little bit – notice that sparrow in the tree, the wagging of a dog’s tail, the laugh of a child, and enjoy that moment. There – right there – you are on the threshold of your very own prayer moment. Take that moment as you sit in your car, or in line for a bus, and enter your moment of Christmas with a minute of gratitude for all that you are and have. This could be the healthiest thing you do this Christmas.
May you and yours have a blessed and peaceful Christmas.
Published on Spiritually Speaking in the Times Colonist December 11 2011