“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
So goes a popular Christmas song, now more than half a century old, which cites the joy of this season. Most of the time, I can agree with the sentiment. Opening our home to loved ones from our church community, bright lights on cold winter nights, the simple beauty of a Christmas Eve service in our sanctuary – all these things are truly joys in my life. But this Christmas will be very different in our home. Patrick will be in New Zealand, where it is the middle of summer. This marks only the second Christmas we have ever been apart (the other was when he was in India; what a traveler!)
It is true for many people, each year: This can be a very difficult season to navigate. Some memories are painful. Losses abound, and can seem more prominent, than at other times. Disappointments can run deep. It can be very hard, being reminded of those who are not with us, or of those things that did not come to pass. There are those who carry a lot of pain with them this time of year.
Thus it is important to be gentle with one another. To not make assumptions, whether about a person’s mood, or what holiday they celebrate (or don’t). So if you wish someone “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” (and please, don’t let yourself get drawn into the manufactured controversy over such greetings), do so with sincerity and compassion. Do so as a simple, loving reminder that you see that person, even at this time of year when it is hard to see clearly, in spite of (or perhaps because of) all the many lights.
One antidote to seasonal sadness that I have found is being with others – others who are genuinely interested in how you are doing and what you are feeling. Heritage Church is such a community – and this month, we offer many opportunities to connect with others and feel the loving spirit of this church.
Stop in for worship on the first Sunday of December (December 2nd), and stick around afterward as we decorate our sanctuary Christmas tree – a tradition that includes people of all ages, who come with or without children, with or without partners. Women are invited to the annual Clara Barton Guild Holiday Dinner (December 5th) at church. All are invited to the Holiday Open House that Jennifer and I offer each year at our home in Anderson Township (December 9th, after church). Again, everyone is invited to the HUUC Holiday Party on Saturday evening, December 15th. Then there’s the Heritage Winter Solstice Celebration on Friday evening, December 21st – the longest night of the year. There’s the Sunday morning that our children perform their “Pop-Up Christmas Pageant” (December 23rd). And finally, of course, our Christmas Eve candlelight service on Monday evening, December 24th at 7 o’clock.
As I have said before, at this time of year, while the days grow shorter, and sunlight wanes, be sure that you get an adequate dose of “Vitamin C” (community!) I hope to see you at church many times this month, and to offer you a warm hug. Blessings and light to you all.