I was planning to write a post about how I feel over Christmas but my reflections have changed shape over the past few days to see a slightly different picture. About the real gifts of Christmas.
I met an old work friend the other day who probably sparked this chain of thoughts. Times are really tough for her and Christmas is a reminder that she doesn't have the money to spoil the people she loves. She needs the money just to put food on the table. She is not alone. We are living in times of austerity. People are struggling to make ends meet. I started thinking about what Christmas represents both personally and theologically and how that differs for many people around the world. I thought about how much pressure we put upon ourselves to try and recreate the media images of the perfect Christmas; about how grumpy I've been feeling this week because I want to try and get all the presents wrapped and feel in control of this one day of the year and my frustration at my plans being constantly thwarted by the never-ending needs of other people. I thought about all the people for whom this Christmas will not be a picture-perfect happy occasion: The mum at school who received a call to say her mother had had a stroke and who was desperately trying to hold it together to get her children to school before rushing to her mother's bedside; a friend whose husband is posted overseas with the army and won't be home with his family at Christmas; all the families who have experienced the loss of children and other loved ones in the recent shooting in Connecticut; people around the world who don't have their loved ones with them.
In our house we celebrate Yule as well as Christmas. We celebrate that the day and night are of equal length and that the sun will slowly be more prominent in our lives again. The sun that will bring our crops and all the life that is sustained by our sun. We also celebrate the birth of Jesus, not as traditional Christians, but as an acknowledgement of a man who brought so many incredible messages to our lives. Most importantly that of love. Love for everyone. We also naturally enjoy our family time and all the food and presents. Who doesn't enjoy that part?
Sadly Christmas often throws a spotlight on what is not right in our lives. How are lives do not match that picture perfect image that the Coca Cola and John Lewis adverts portray. For me it highlights the people who are not in my life and the stresses and sadness and complications attached to that. It can be a very bright spotlight. It brings me down every year. Christmas is an emotive time of year for many reasons. Feelings often seem intensified at this time of year.
That is my gift this Christmas.
And with this post I am sending my love out to everyone in the world who needs a little love.