All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort— we get a full measure of that, too. 2 Corinthians 1 (The Message Bible)
"Oh Tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
Oh Tidings of comfort and joy."
from the Christmas carol, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
That first Christmas, so long ago, was really messy.
Jesus was born in a barn, of all places! The animals had a smell about them no doubt, and things were dirty and dusty. No water to take a shower; no heater to keep warm. People may like to think of Christmas with cheerful wrapping paper around the gifts, tasty food, Christmas carols, and families getting together. Sometimes, though, Christmas is not wrapped in cheerful packages. The season seems messy.
Some people may see Christmas nearing with a measure of great dread, for celebration seems the farthest thing possible. Perhaps there's been a loss in the family, such as loss of a loved one, a job, a relationship, a hope, one's health. The loss may be emotional, physical, and financial. The feeling may be related to circumstances; the feeling may be related to a medical condition such as depression.
Sometimes we end up wanting to be alone, to not participate in the usual preparations. Where I live, he shorter days and longer nights around Christmastime do not help. For some, the times seem desperate, with Christmas surrounded in a waves of darkness that end up displacing the light.
Well, I sure don't have all the answers to dark times such as these, but I can offer a few humble thoughts that might be able to help just a little. Because, you see, sometimes I've been one of those feeling the darkness wash over me, feeling like I was being swallowed up. I found how much it helped if I could think of anything to help see or imagine that there is even a glimmer of hope. Yes, beyond darkness and despair, there is always a glimmer of light. And into a dark world long ago, that is what happened. Hope and joy came along. If you can see, or think, or hold onto the promise of hope and of joy for even a fleeting moment, it may help.
Something else I have is a mental "tool box" of what helps me. Do you have such a thing?
One item in there helps me adjust my idea of preparation for things, my responsibilities that come at me. Especially when I am down, instead of feeling like I have to do everything myself, completing a long list of preparations by myself, and finally getting overwhelmed-- I just stop and take a breath. Be realistic. Very little on the list may actually have to be done. Be willing to let some of it go, be willing to be far less ambitious, be willing to share the load of the essentials.
Sometimes we've grown to think family all must get together in a certain way as been done in the past. Yet consider that it might help NOT to go all out at this time of year to visit family. What if a visit was scheduled later on at a calmer time when things were so stressful.
When the darkness seems never-ending, some more things I find in my toolbox that might help:
1. Calling a friend, or chatting on the internet.
2. Spending some quiet time with my dog, a golden retriever named Buddy. Buddy can be a great source of comfort to have on hand when I have days and times I cant seem to find the motivation. He seems to pick up a sense of things not going so well for me, then does his best to comfort me.
3. Sometimes i have to force myself to move, such as doing some housekeeping around the home or going for a walk.
4. Attending church helps me;
5. Keeping a journal and coming back to it to see I have grown maybe more than I thought;
6. Listening to some favorite music .
7. Reading a good book.
8. Going to a hot tub if I can access one.
9. Thinking of spring and St. Louis Cardinals baseball.
I0. Interacting with the Comfort Dogs on the Internet. Why the Comfort Dogs? They are a ministry of faith, hope, and love sponsored by some Lutheran churches here in the USA. Each comfort dog has a card with a color and their own Bible verse. They are called to spread the good news of God's love. They also go into various places such as nursing homes, schools, and hospitals.
I have a few replicas of the dogs in a plush stuffed animal version. Some have a bandana with their name on it. Yes, when I am having a really rough time or tough day, I will go and pick up a comfort dog plush version to be with me.
These are some of the things on my list which I have in my tool box.
The list can be endless. The more items you have in your toolbox, the more likely you are to have what you need when the time comes.
What are some of the items you have in tool box that you can use when things seem bleak?
Did you know that the items in your tool box can change? Perhaps you could share from your toolbox when they are having difficulties in their life.
This Christmas, no matter if we are up, down, in-between or not sure, we are still called to the Presence of God's Love. We are still to be guided by God's voice everyday.
May many blessings come your way, and may you be able to see at least just a small part of these blessings.
How can you bless someone today? How have you received blessings in your own life from others?
Wishing you a Christmas season of faith, hope and love.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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