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“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!" -- Charles Dickens

“If we never experience the chill of a dark winter, it is very unlikely that we will ever cherish the warmth of a bright summer’s day. Nothing stimulates our appetite for the simple joys of life more than the starvation caused by sadness or desperation.” -- Anthon St Maarten

“May the lights of Hanukkah usher in a better world for all humankind.” -- Anonymous

"The seven principles of Kwanzaa -- unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith -- teach us that when we come together to strengthen our families and communities and honor the lesson of the past, we can face the future with joy and optimism." -- President Bill Clinton

Holidays, secular economic frenzies, and the end of another year; here we go again…

Each year, December brings a month filled with holidays, celebrations complete with a variety of gift giving traditions, and—to the glee of students and educators alike—school vacations.  But before the holidays, before the celebrations, before the money is gone let us consider a few things again or for the first time.

How do we as individual families celebrate our holiday celebrations?  Do we do it with gift exchanges and other rituals?

In what ways does holiday gift-giving figure in the collective imagination through movies, TV shows, and great literature. Some of these offerings are performed, rerun and re-read year after year?

Trace your holiday traditions especially the practice of gathering for the feast and of course gift giving as it unfolds over time and consider if common themes and elements can be found within the great variety of spiritual traditions.

As the holiday season fast approaches, so often we find our days speeding faster past us. There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the month, for all that we have to do. We are trying to keep up with decorating, shopping, parties, end of the year meetings, purchasing that special new item that is on sale and keeping up with the gift giving of our friends and neighbors. We are so swamped with everything that we often don't take the time for the true spiritual meaning of the holiday season.

However, there is still time. These few words, hopefully, will give you some ideas on how to rekindle the special meaning of the season before it passes.

Here a few tips- first, write down your affirmations for what you want the season to be about. Place it where you can see it. Place it on your bathroom mirror or in your wallet, the refrigerator is really good too.

Look closely at your reasons for the holiday season. Is it about keeping up with your gift-giving friends and relatives? Is it about trying to compete with them? Or, is it about bringing service and light to others? Is it about trying to make every persons party? Or, is it about visiting someone that you haven't seen in some time? Is it about eating and drinking more, until you feel wasted? Or, is it about your quest for a deeper meaning in your values? Only you can examine this yourself.

Work to control things that you can. In life, there are things that you can control and those you can't. Focus on what you can. You can control over eating and drinking. You can control arguments and bad language. You can control charity towards those in need. You can control over spending. You can control visiting a lonely friend or neighbor. You can control if you come to the various offerings our church has for you this season.

For some, this is the loneliest time of the year. The holiday season can be fraught with pain and upset. Look around you. Has a friend or neighbor recently lost a loved one? Seek them out and spend some time with them. Invite them over or take them shopping. Plan something that is constructive with them. If a person lives far away, pick up your cellphone and give them a call. Do you have a co-worker or relative that has recently divorced?  How about someone that is unemployed or underemployed, same thing reach out to them.

Look for something good around your life. Many people brace for the holidays, when they should be embracing the holiday season. Sometimes the smallest good can shine through to lift up your spiritual meaning of the season. You have to look for it.

Finally, take some time for yourself. Get away from everything for a few hours by yourself. Pick a place and time just for you. Schedule a block of time for your mind. Find a place to just relax and enjoy yourself. For some, it might be a few quiet moments in church. For others, it might be a stroll through the park. This time, for yourself, will give you the opportunity to focus on the spiritual meaning of the holiday season.

In faith and love,

Rev Gordon Clay Bailey

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