A few of us discussed over lunch what’s wrong with Christmas this year. I wondered if taking the decorations down before Christmas was indicative that something is strange. Warm weather? Usually Christmas depression settles in four minutes after Christmas bills arrive. It has arrived before the holidays this year.
Christmas time is a time-released bomb waiting to go off. Part of it is that we want to experience the “Golden Moment,” more than we want the perfect gift. The Golden Moment is when something repairs something that was broken in a previous time. Classic Christmas songs set us up for maudlin and melancholy. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” as I remember, was written during WWII for soldiers to sing from overseas. Dreaming of a White Christmas does not segue naturally into the Hallelujah Chorus. “White Christmas” is that Golden Moment which has nothing to do with snow. Christmas is a wounder and will not return the dead loved one to the table this year or repair the damage done by the emptiness left by memories of atrocious earlier holidays.
One of my beloveds is feeling uncharacteristically “dis-heartened.” When the scripture says, “Guard your heart,” it is warning us about being dis-heartened. Somewhere in the Christmas season either neuroses or reality kicks in and reminds us that the snow Bing Crosby sang about turns into slush, slick roads and more germs than can be measured by the climate control committee. Cynicism doesn’t help. Measuring expectations and managing disappointment does.
Dan Harris, the ABC news anchor, had a panic attack on-air and thought his life was over. His book “10% Happier” describes the voices in our heads that are never silent. Comparison, self-criticism, judgment and urgent demands lead to disheartening. Harris says multi-tasking is impossible. He is not the first one I’ve heard say that recently. Chronic multi-tasking can lead to disheartenment. Monitoring and rebuffing the voices is a healthy holiday habit.
Brace yourself. I’m going to tell you my dream from last night. I was hired by a seminary colleague to help him on his farm and preach for him this Sunday. Our first job was to feed the hogs. When we got to the pig pen, there was a baby sleeping in the pigsty with its head on some straw. I’m not a hog farmer, but I know people who are. Pigs may be cute; hogs can be vicious. I asked that preacher if he wasn’t worried that the hogs would eat their baby. He said they weren’t and that they placed the baby there frequently. I woke up shaking.
Carole interpreted part of my dream by changing the word pigsty to manger. I knew who the baby was. Christmas can be depressing even when we keep Christ in Christmas. Our Christmas can be devoured by unrealistic expectations or impossible hopes.
Carole instructed a loved one to “Take heart.” When she said that, I knew if the Bethlehem angels were to show up at our house for a short concert tonight that is exactly what they would sing. “Message from Jesus—to you and your kin—take heart.”
How do you take heart?
©2015 D. Dean Benton—writer & wonderer