A Guide to Authentic Christmassing
A Pastoral Letter
Christmas. It’s here again. Most of us are in a subdued shock that it came and is – in a few hours – a figment of memory as we direct our attention to a new year, 20 something – which is in of itself quite sobering. Have any of you felt this way before?
I don't believe anyone enjoys that sense of disorientation and uninvited surprise. Think about it. A day that apparently should be as significant as Christmas Day would be upon us and depart without as much as us pausing and genuinely, slowly, taking Christmas all in – all of it - and like a full breath that releases tension and sets us into a peaceful path – we release it until next year.
But why don’t we?
I will endeavor to make a few suggestions. I hope that the contents of this piece bring reflection. An opportunity to take some practical suggestions to find repose at this time of the rolling year.
The most evident reason I have collected from countless persons over at least a good ten years is that of expectations. Yes, expectations. These are the most troubling due to the impressions they make upon us. For us to appreciate expectations – we should first address what problems are. Stay with me – yes, this is about Christmas – in fact, about the entire holiday season.
A problem is defined as anything that doesn’t have an evident solution. So, in the absence of an evident solution, we begin to feel the imagined stress of an unresolved matter and somehow, we always designate ourselves as the ideal person to fix it, change someone, or take control of the matter. Why?
Because we fear what will happen if we don’t act, and this is the real matter, isn't it? We feel we need to control and make things perfect, right, just like in a Hallmark Christmas Special or a Publix commercial – or the way our parents hosted holiday parties, etc. The list is as exhaustive as it is – well -unrealistic.
This is where expectations come in. As the holidays approach, these are all expectations that begin to gnaw at our sense of peace. We expect people to be a certain way and, at times, for very good reasons. We expect people to judge – and often they do. We expect people not to be appreciative – and we'll actually never know, will we?
Here’s the major shift that can transform your life – not just for this Christmas – but for your entire life, don’t harbor expectations. None – zero -zilch.
Expectations are not what Christmas is about. Anticipation of a new life and a new sense of purpose cultivates peace. A shift in perspective causes us to choose a new life. Why do we need to be in control? We weren't created to be in control. We were created to serve. That is a huge difference. We are to hold space, not transform it. We are to be a presence and not the divine One. We are to provide care, not those who heal or change anyone. What we provide is offered with joy and an authentic sense of hospitality – we do so as well for the One whose birthday is the entire reason behind Christmas Day. We aren't expected to do anything, either. Let others entertain those assumptions, but we do not have to entertain them. Be free and be at peace.
As I age, I understand many carols and songs of the season in quite a different light. I comprehend them as urging a sense of moving away from the temporal expectations of the season toward the eternal message of the season. As we shift our perspectives, the emphasis will also shift from the former to the latter. This is where expectations do not have room – only an open heart for the One to lay and grow into the fullness of light promised so long ago.
Not having expectations is not easy. When you have them, invite yourself to move ahead with a new perspective. Live into the shift – and at times – fake it until you make it. But over time, you will experience a wonderful relief caused by relief. You're not in control anymore. No one actually is. Expectations are no longer needed as you are aware of the precious time – the here and now – you choose to spend with family, friends, and loved ones. Those days shall also pass, but the promise of light, life, and peace will not.
This is the meaning of Christmas.
A blessed and peaceful Christmastide to you and your loved ones –
Rev. Dr. Daniel Medina
Miami Lakes Congregational Church