Tag Archives: Christmas

Partially empty Christmas table

It’s ok–Christmas hasn’t been cancelled!

Across the world many will be experiencing a different kind of Christmas this year. The Covid-19 pandemic has shocked the world. In the UK, it’s been announced that many cannot spend it with anyone outside their household. I’ve heard people say “Christmas is cancelled” so I’ve felt moved to respond.

This year, people have been hit with loss beyond anything anyone expected, we’re beginning to try and pick up the pieces, hoping Christmas will help, then we’ve been told, a week before Christmas that we need to change our plans. Some will be feeling frustrated about the guidelines “constantly changing” or anxiety about spending Christmas in an unplanned way, some will be annoyed at the Big Brother treatment or overwhelmed with managing last minute changes. Personally, I’m angry and sad at people who’re incapable at following simple guidance, it’s the small minority spoiling it for the majority who’re now having to follow more stringent rules.

What’s important is, whatever you’re feeling, it’s valid and you give yourself space to feel what you’re feeling, while also understanding what you can and can’t control.

Let me explain

Your feelings are your feelings and no one can tell you what you’re feeling. You might even be feeling relieved—sometimes it can help to write down how you’re feeling or talk about them with a trusted friend.

Problems come when you deny your feelings, push them down or try to swallow them, they’ll come out eventually; you or those around you will suffer. We can’t control the virus or the guidelines set out by the government. What we can control is how we respond and keeping a positive attitude helps makes it easier to cope. A positive attitude doesn’t mean, pretending everything is fine!

Perhaps this year, we can learn from the first Christ-mas…

During her last trimester, the government ordered Jesus’ mum to take a long journey. How unsettling would this have felt?! But she didn’t complain, she just did as she was told. Does this remind you of anything?

Joseph considers leaving Mary as he thought she’d been unfaithful but he didn’t, he trusted God. How many people are angry at God, just now? Blaming him and asking “how”? Or “why”? Perhaps, instead, we can say, “please be with us in our troubles”? For he will be there in a heart beat, as soon as we reach out.

There was no room for Mary and Joseph but an inn keeper let them stay in his cattle shed. This year, how will you help the homeless or those less fortunate?

Jesus was born and laid in an animal’s feeding trough. At this time of year, it’s usually a time of plenty where food and materialism takes centre stage. Some people, this year won’t have enough food, How great would it be if our children grew up appreciating the smaller things in life instead of ‘needing’ the lasting gadget due to FOMO?

Mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows and ginger bread biscuit

Christmas isn’t about presents, decorations or even about friends and family. This year, some people won’t be able to afford presents, may have lost their home and may not be spending it with anyone they choose but Christmas can be what you make it. Perhaps a lie-in, a spot of yoga, a walk and a Christmas movie while enjoying a some cheese and crackers will be what works this year? Perhaps you’d rather play an album of heavy rock a full volume while head banging and playing air guitar is your thing? This year is about doing what works!

It may not be possible to be with our loved ones this year but technology may bring us together. A short zoom call could bring some important connectivity.

Some thing good that occurred when the church building doors shut in March this year. Many churches are continuing the live stream all of the services. Perhaps this Christmas you could check out one of these? You’ll be able to find the Arch Bishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Facebook by using this link. My local church St Mark’s will be live on YouTube with all the links accessible from the website.

Family decorating Christmas tree

But what about all those traditions?! Maybe this is the year you re-evaluate whether you really want to continue all those traditions, is it time for new traditions? This is a great time to have a good think about what’s really important, have you been doing things the same every year just because that’s what you’ve always done? If you come to the conclusion that you really want to stick with everything you’ve always done, there’s always next year; but maybe you’ll see things with fresh eyes and realise that you don’t have to do things the same every year!

Remember this is just one year, one day, don’t put so much pressure on it that it’s spoilt. Be honest with yourself and those around you about how you’re feeling but don’t let those feelings control you. You can chose how you respond.

We all need a break!

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!

Is Christmas just for children?

children-at-christmas
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’re 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 many times, the magic of Santa has gone and the 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.

Many of you know, this blog is about mental illness and I’m struck by the similarities. Mental illness can often feel a bit empty, 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 won’t 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 and 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!
Nativity_tree2011