The reading below was used in a holiday memorial service at church this week. I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders as I listened to it. I've struggled for a long time to find a way to welcome the joy and magic of this time of year, while maintaining some sense of integrity regarding the other emotions it evokes in me. Mostly I've swung from the extreme of choosing to be jolly to the point of ignoring everything else to choosing not to celebrate at all, as I did last year. Neither extreme is what I want, but complicated family stuff and losing Speaks-Few-Words when I left Always-Mom have filled this time of year with a mixture of emotions for me. I have yet to find a graceful way to enter into the holiday season without just gritting my teeth and holding on for dear life until it's over. But, I think I'm getting closer.
I found this reading very affirming. It helped me name that part of the problem for me is a certain social expectation that the season is "supposed" to be light and joy-filled. Hearing these words helped me lay down my own expectations that Christmas needs to be anything but complicated for me. So I offer this to you...
I Wish for You a Complicated Christmas
by Bruce Marshall
I wish for you this year a complicated Christmas.
Not the Christmases of simple joys and warm memories that we feel obligated to strive for,
but a season in which there is room for the complexities that occur during this time;
A season of complicated memories, of happiness and pain, of comfort and loss,
of disappointment and fulfillment;
A season of gifts, some that remind us of the relationships that sustain us,
some that remind us of the silliness and excess to which we are also subject;
A season of joy that also has room for sadness, because gladness and sorrow
take place together;
A season of busyness that also grants us time to pause;
A season of bustling that also allows for quiet;
A season of celebration that also encourages time for reflection;
A season of stories and songs about which we have complicated feelings,
some fill us with the warmth of nostalgia, some make us cringe with discomfort,
and some bring messages of truth and hope that we still yearn to hear;
A season of light that brings us to see more intensely the shadows of our lives;
A season of hope that underscores how far we still must travel to realize these dreams.
It is in this world of complicated feelings and memories that a star appears and shines above,
drawing us forward with promises of peace and goodwill, offering glimpses
of the path that still lies ahead.
So I wish for you all what I wish for myself.... A Christmas that acknowledges that hope dawns not in the uncomplicated joy of guilt-induced denial and happiness; it comes in the messiness that is life, full of complicated feelings and memories, drawing us to a child born not in the sterility of our clean, reverent nativity scenes, but in the messiness of a kennel, surrounded by indifferent animals and travel weary parents.
I am learning that true hope comes when I search for it with integrity. May it be so for us all this year!