Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why is Christmas So HARD?

Dear Santa Claus: It would be a lot easier if you REALLY DID do this job!
It's Christmas Eve.

Many of us are stressed out. There are all these things to do, and we are all running around to fix every detail "just right" and to meet every expectation. We are determined that we are going to make our Christmas MERRY!

We may be troubled, broken, confused people; we may have dysfunctional families, or families separated by distance or rife with division, but we are going to do what we think we're "supposed to do" in order to construct a kind of ritual happiness. We will have gift-giving, and a big meal, and we will try to hold our tongues and not fight with one another.

Or when relationships have been severed beyond our hope, or when loved ones have died and are painfully missed, we will struggle to build new Christmas happiness rituals, holding back the tears as best we can.

We stress out and work so hard to make Christmas happy, or at least to make it look happy.

This is understandable. We want so much to be happy. And this time of year can feel like a weight, an obligation to be happy even if we don't know how, or don't think we can be happy. Still, we try so hard!

We try to make Christmas joy happen. Or, at least, we try to make something happen that feels like joy.

Why is it so hard?

We must take time to remember that the real happiness, the real joy of Christmas, does not have its source in anything we make.

The joy of Christmas is a gift. It is a gift freely given to us. A wonder. An utterly surprising, amazing, unimaginable gift that has been given to each and every one of us without exception.

Of course we work hard, make sacrifices, and try to set aside our disputes for the sake of a celebration. It's human to seek happiness, to hope for it, and to celebrate it.

But let us remember that our celebration is not a desperate, exhausting, confusing effort to build a great tower that will somehow reach and grasp that mysterious happiness that always eludes us.

This effort always leads to disappointment. Even if we have vacations and smiling pictures and fun and great memories, we will still -- in the end -- find ourselves empty when the lights come down and the long nights of January stretch out before us.

Disappointment. For some it triggers or exacerbates illnesses of mind and body. Others find ways to forget it, suppress it, or return to the (always temporary) truce that human beings make with boredom and mediocrity in their daily lives.

Christmas is not meant to lead us to disappointment. We must remember, again and again, that we are not trying to build a tower reaching up to an unattainable happiness.

We are preparing a place to welcome a gift that has already been given to us, to celebrate this gift, to rejoice in it. The gift belongs to each one of us, and nothing can take it away from us.

We can ignore it. We can run away from it. But the gift remains. It waits for us. It promises joy if we will only receive it. And the gift is so great that it will heal and open our hearts and enable us to receive it.

Whatever we may be suffering, the gift of Christmas is a triumphant Joy that opens for us a path and gives us the steps that lead from joy to joy, so that we can walk the road of joy and learn how to give ourselves in turn to this gift of Joy that never ends.

Let us remember: The Joy of Christmas is a Gift.

Let us welcome this Gift in a celebration of wonder and gratitude.