Tinsel and Tears at Christmas

Tinsel and Tears at Christmas

            We all have times when waves of weariness and pain threaten to erode our best defenses. They bring cold, dark water with a dangerous undertow. Sometimes December intensifies the pain, the fear. People are laughing, singing, wishing us a “Merry Christmas”. Our world expects us to be happy.

We forget that from its very beginning, Christmas has been a mixture of tinsel and tears, joy and sorrow. Our Christmas story tells us that God’s coming to live among us on earth brought joy amidst sorrow and fear. Mary and Joseph, engaged but not yet married, far from family, are homeless in a strange place. In the midst of their distress new life comes. Their beautiful baby is born.

The promise of Christmas is not a life free from pain, grief or illness. The promise of Christmas lies in hope, hope for new life. The promise of Christmas is God’s presence among us, God’s endless love surrounding us. Julian of Norwich, a thirteenth century mystic offers us this centering prayer: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” This is faith. This is hope.  God has promised to guide our footsteps, to carry us when we falter and to bring forth new life within us.

Sarah Ban Breathnach, in her book, “Simple Abundance” tells us that when she is overwhelmed with life, she repeats Julian’s prayer over and over like a mantra. Rather than offering understanding or answers, this prayer brings hope and peace. The words bring strength enough to hold on until the night gives way to a new day, a good day.

This Christmas season, open your heart to God’s hope in the midst of your darkness. Trust that eventually, ”all will be well”, maybe not today, maybe not as you had planned and dreamed, but in God’s time and in God’s way. Believe with Julian of Norwich, “all manner of things will be well.”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

2 thoughts on “Tinsel and Tears at Christmas”

  1. Janet, that was very, very, very good. Thank you. It resonates so much I just had to respond. As you may know or guess, I have a long running and satisfying relationship with the Boss (as I like to think of him, since as a sailor with tall ship experience I`m used to respecting authority and following orders). But some elements here grabbed me, like the “cold, dark water with a dangerous undertow”. The focal point of my year long coming of age at 20 was as skipper of an oared navy whaler with sailing rig, with a large crew of juvenile delinquents I had to rehabilitate in a strenuous program, on a Georgian Bay camping/cruising expedition. It was my first job after graduation, my family had just disintegrated and I now believe I likely had a clinical depression on top of it, making life hell. It was one of the bleakest, most hopeless times of my life. Then, as if things couldn`t get any worse, we got badly walloped by an autumn storm that scared the living daylights out of my entire crew. Everyone looks up to you, but what does the Skipper do, without undermining faith in his abilities? Speak of stress. But I had a little faith and handled it well. It was a defining moment. The whaler did good too – what an outstanding sea boat! It was mainly the nerves (and queasy stomachs) of the crew, and I had to be extremely careful and accurate with the navigation, while all hell broke loose. But your imagery brings back memories. As for Julian`s prayer, there is an adage that I keep in my heart: “All things, both the good and the bad, come to an end sooner or later”. Whenever anything happens, I always take a deep breath, have a little faith, and try to remember what I did last time I had a crisis. Especially what happened to my short-lived sense of hopelessness. Then it all comes back to me, and I`m good to go, like a dog who has finally remembered where he buried his bone. But I always offer a prayer of thanks, in gratitude. I wish you, Janet, a very enjoyable Christmas, filled with love and kindness, and all the best for the New Year. With warmest regards, Jurgen Braunohler. PS – please note the change of e-mail address, mostly still the same but ending with .com instead of .net.

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