I’ve been reflecting, recently, on the number of people commenting about how essential it is that their work continues through the Christmas period. 2 thoughts have occurred to me:
1. Don’t take bank holidays for granted!
When some people say their not getting a break, they mean, they’re not getting any extra annual leave aside from bank holidays. Seriously, I’ve heard people actually say “I’m working right through” but they’re getting Christmas Day and Boxing Day off and only working half days the rest of the week. Hang on…that’s not “working right through”!! If you’ve got the bank holidays off, it’s ok to say so and appreciate them!
Let’s stop and think about people who are actually working on Christmas Day: nurses, doctors, police officers, priests, carers…these people are “working right through”! These people will spend part or all of the festive season away from their friends and family, looking after those in need.
2. The care sector and emergency services are the only essentials!
No matter what we think, entertainment, technology, motor, retail and many others….none of these are essential! Yes, we need them, I’m not saying we can do away all together but perspective people!
In previous roles, working bank holidays was part of my job, people need care 24/7. Yes, I’d work some and not others but I could never count on getting a day off. I now work in admin and I’m happy to say, this year, “the hospital doesn’t need admin over Christmas so I’m off!” I’m no longer essential!
What’s happened to our culture in that having a break seems to be frowned upon?! It’s ok to take a break, if you’ve got the bank holidays off, good for you, if you’ve arranged your annual leave so you’re taking more of a break, great! Leave from work is not just a legal right but an essential part of health management.
If it’s the culture at your place of work to not take annual leave, you could be the one to change it. A good work life balance is something to be proud of, not some thing be ashamed of!
You don’t need to play the martyr and work as though the world would stop turning if you were to take a break. If, on the other hand, you actually want to work through Christmas, good for you, maybe the festivities aren’t for you, that’s ok, just make sure you take a break at another time of year!
A number of times this year I have heard people say “I’m not feeling Christmassy but Christmas just for children really isn’t it?”. What they are referring to is the excitement that exudes from children regarding the presents they hope to receive, the magic of Santa and the joy they show as they rip open present after present and begin playing with their new toys or latest gadget. And since, as adults, we have been through this process a number of times, the magic of Santa has gone and we generally have fewer requests for Christmas, you can understand that interest wanes. Some parents, perhaps even dread Christmas, all the stress of the preparation, having to make the day perfect, making sure all the food is cooked and on time, making sure that each child feels equally but individually treated. And then there’s the pressure of making sure you see all the family that’s expected, sometimes travelling great distances, trying not to offend anyone.
It saddens me that for so many people Christmas has been reduced to a materialism and trying to “get it right”.
The “Christ” has been taken out of Christmas. Of course, I understand, if you do not believe in Christ then the term Christmas is purely a term used to describe a season when family and friends gather, eat vast quantities and presents are exchanged. Many people can have a perfectly happy day when this is all that matters. But I’m struck every year but people saying they don’t get excited, the day isn’t that great and it can all feel like an anti-climax.
Mental illness can often feel like this – a feeling of emptiness, a sense that something’s missing. When I’ve felt like this, I’m very fortunate that I’ve not had to look too far to know that Jesus is right beside, even when he’s felt far away, I’ve held onto the knowledge that he’s suffering with me, in fact, he’s suffered a great deal more (when he died on the cross for me).
Advent, for me, is all about the anticipation, the active waiting, and the building excitement to celebrate the birth of the Jesus Christ. There is still a little stress, trying to get all the right presents to the right people in time, ordering and buying food to make it extra special and planning the day so it runs smoothly but, I hold central what truly matters is Christ. For me, the midnight service is the highlight! Yes, I love being with family and friends when possible, it’s great to see children excited and exchanging gifts is fun but keeping Christ at the centre and all the other things, as important as they are, matter less.
There are people who will not be surrounded by family or friends, they won’t have any special food and won’t give or receive any physical presents but they will be enveloped by the greatest gift anyone can receive, the knowledge and understanding that God entered the world as a human baby and later died to save us. The mystery and myth of Santa is soon put into perspective when considered against awe and wonder of Christ!
So, yes, Christmas is for children but it’s equally for adults, young, older, old, Christ is for everyone! As my faith and relationship with God deepens my understanding of what Christ’s birth really means is more extraordinary each year. Keep Christ at the centre of Christmas and the mystery will never be lost!