Sometimes, the brightest of Christmas celebrations is followed by a feeling of letdown, a hollow sensation that something is missing after all the festivities, gifts, and socializing. And if you live with a chronic, serious illness, you might feel this and dread – even with all of the readings and songs about God’s love and comfort, you are still sick, still suffering.
I find myself sometimes a bit melancholy after Christmas. The decorations go down or, even if they don’t, their presence still seems to remind me of what was, the holiday that is in the past. But, now when I look at the chreche.
When I see the creche, I am filled again with awe and wonder of the simple story that began and the amazingly grand story that unfolded. I am heartened that Christ remains and prayer and praise are daily, not just once a year. The creche reminds me of the others in the Christmas story – we’re never alone when we consider the shepherds, journey with the magi, and rest quietly and softly beside the manger.
Even when all decorations are put away, the creche remains in my heart, the best present for times when, during the rest of the year, Christmas seems so far away and other painful feelings mar the simplicity of Bethlehem.
If you feel a little hollow after Christmas, keep the creche close. revisit with Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the others who were there and who still are in our faith. Pray that a prominent place for that creche will be made in your heart and that it will be filled, not void, with hope, encouragement, and love.
If you’re dealing with a chronic illness and feeling frazzled in these last few days leading up to Christmas, I have some reassurance for you: By now, the best thing to do might be not to do anything – well, almost!
From gifts to cooking and baking to decorating, you’ve probably done a lot. Others have, too. And in this flurry, you might be feeling stressed, overworked, possibly “working on a flare.”
Yes, by now, you might not think you can get it all done. And the truth is, you probably won’t.
So, ease up. Be gentle to yourself and others. Spend time with the people behind the cards and gifts and events. Have real conversations at this real time of light and love. Drop all that is not really necessary and you’ll probably discover new delights that were hidden by all the overwhelming stress. Don’t drop your doctor-prescribed health regimen. Don’t drop your time with God in prayer.
But drop the unnecessary, the things that get between you and Christmas.
And be truly merry.
I have to laugh at the competitions that take place around this time of year – the homeowners’ associations’ lawn decorating contests, the holiday cookie bake-offs. I even attended a mass at a church that had a competition for the “best” Christmas card design by a grade schooler. When did Christmas become so cut-throat? When was it written into the holiday lexicon to “award” people for Christmas activities, especially in churches or other faith-based insitutions.
Isn’t the “prize” of Christmas, well, Christmas?
All the other “stuff” – the one-upmanship, the jockeying for a prize position – isn’t really Christmas, is it?
Our Lord would never have won the award for lawn decoration. He didn’t have a lawn, and a manger is hardly what we think of as stunning artistry.
The shepherds did not look up to the angels singing of Christmas and pick out the one that they deemed “best” at vocalizing.
Mary and Joseph did not inspect the gifts from the magi and pick and choose which one was most worthy of the baby Jesus.
I completely understand wanting all that we do at Christmas to be the best possible. Even for those of us who are ill, the holidays is a time to shine more brightly, be more practiced and perfect in our celebrations and worship.
But, competition? Hmm… Instead of striving to “beat” one another, isn’t it more fitting to sit together, humbly, before Our Lord? To be thankful for the gift, not envious of a prize (small “p”), but rather in awe of the Prize – the Prize that is Christmas.