By Shannon Rainey, MS, LPC-S
As the holiday quickly approaches, it is evident from TV commercials, Christmas carols, ugly Christmas sweaters, and family gatherings that there is an expectation to be cheerful and JOYFUL. That seems hard for about 89.9% of us. After all, not all of us feel joyful or cheerful. In fact, we feel frustrated, tired, sad, anxious, and ready for the holidays to come and go so we can overlook what we’re lacking.
The holiday season has the power to create a keen awareness that we are not enough. We all know those dreaded areas too well. Areas where we are grieving the loss of a loved one, where our marriage is struggling to survive, where addiction has stolen who we used to be, where loneliness is felt in such a heavy way that it is paralyzing to our soul, where physical sickness leaves us scared and worried, where busyness keeps our minds occupied and our bodies anxious to complete the next task, or where the weariness from the disappointments in our life has left us soul-weary. No matter which set of shoes we see ourselves in this holiday, each pair has a hole where all the JOY has seemingly seeped out.
The truth is, Christmas was never meant to be a holiday where we’re all supposed to “be merry and bright” or “jingle all the way”. If you think back to the reason of the season, which is Jesus’s birth, there were many reasons Mary and Joseph felt tired, frustrated, and sad. Can you imagine traveling for a week, pregnant, riding on a donkey? There is no way that was comfortable. I know she did not “Jingle” all the way there. Then when they arrived, they could not find one room in the Inn. Not one? Don’t you wish you could have heard them as they discussed, worried, and tried to figure out what to do? And let’s not forget that their relationship had been through a lot in those previous months. Mary was a pregnant virgin. Have you ever thought about how Joseph felt about this? What did his family say to him when they found out? His friends? I’m sure the community had a few things to say about Mary being unwed and pregnant. In fact, there must have been major relationship issues because God sent an angel to explain it to Joseph and direct him what to do. They had relationship difficulties before they even married. They were human, just like us. Months before Jesus’ birth, life was hectic and scary. So, leading up to the birth of Christ (CHRISTMAS) the JOY did not come until Jesus entered the manger. The only JOY found was internal. It was found in knowing they held Jesus and His plan was laid before them. THAT deserved the title of “Holy Night”.
So, as we approach the holiday, let’s rethink it.
You are not required to “walk in a winter wonderland” or “be merry and bright”. However, you can make a conscious choice to work toward an inward JOY and PEACE. Knowing all of this frees you from focusing on unrealistic expectations that society places on you. You don’t have to focus on the tree, perfecting the decorations, hosting the parties, or finding the perfect gift. Instead take time to find the JOY and PEACE you need. That may look like visiting your mom and dad more, reading your favorite book, sitting with a cup of hot chocolate in the quiet of the night, taking a bubble bath, or listening to soothing music that feeds your soul. We all have something that helps us clear the space in our heads and resets our focus. Set some boundaries for yourself to allow time to find this internal rest and peace. Take time off from work. Do not say “yes” to every gathering. Surround yourself with the positive people in your life and establish your own traditions that are meaningful and that draw you into your spiritual awareness. Remember, JOY is internal, not external. It is best found in a relationship with Jesus. Slow down this Christmas and focus on what is important. Remember that life doesn’t have to be perfect to do this.
You will know you have achieved the goal when “the soul felt its worth”.