Christmas comes with its predictable colours – red and green for the conventional secular world and purple and pink – the hues of Advent – for the Christian world.
But for some of us, another colour creeps into this season – blue.
Blue Christmas is shorthand for those of us who find this season hard. Reasons vary. Memories can haunt of Christmases past. Times when joy spilled over our life – family, friends, shared meals, Church, life had meaning. Or chilling recollections of drunken fights when the Christmas tree is tossed, the turkey uncooked and children are terrified and sobbing.
Years pass, life changes and suddenly you find yourself alone at Christmas. An acquaintance – rich with family – sniffs, "Well you made your choices in life. It's your fault you are where you are."
Everyone seems caught up in circles – circles of parties, family circles, whirlwind circles of shopping, wrapping, packing.
Friends are scattered like dandelion seeds in the wind around the globe. Family? You haven't been on any of their Christmas card lists for years. Besides, their phone numbers are unlisted.
You are alone. Now comes the time when you face choices. Descent into that blue funk looks mighty appealing. Trouble is unless your life experiences some major changes in the next 11 months, you are going to be in the same spot next year.
So you've got three weeks to make changes.
Sure you can. Time to make a plan.
First, look at the others who are also alone. Reach out to them.
No need to eat Christmas dinner by yourself when you can share it by volunteering with the shelters and agencies who feed the lonely, hungry, homeless. Call and sign up. Once you have ladled out stew into a bowl for a winter-bitten soul, you will know the face of want.
It is the birth of the Christ child. Remember the scene at the stable with the gentle beasts surrounding Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus? Animal shelters and rescue organizations are always on the lookout for dedicated volunteers. Just Google "Alberta animal rescue" and you will be amazed at the selection of groups helping abandoned creatures.
Then there were the wise men bringing gifts. Rummage through drawers and closets. Any warm garments you no longer need are more than welcome at the Marian Centre. Despite the city's shelters, some homeless, fearing theft or violence, take to the riverbank for the night. Your blanket, toque, jacket, socks, candles for warmth can literally mean they make it through the night alive.
These ideas coincide with Kevin Carr's premise that Advent is a time when "we open up our hearts to God and other people. We are not just looking after our own interests and enjoyment."
The executive director of Providence Renewal Centre, Carr says "Advent is a call to prepare ourselves for the feast of Christmas. We can withdraw and focus inward and experience negative emotions or we can take some action that takes us out of that self-centredness, interact with people and share the message of hope."
Carr acknowledges there are those who are shrouded in an overwhelming sense of loneliness and grief because of a loss in their lives, a loss that becomes pronounced at this joyous time of the year. The reasons can be many. Death of a loved one. Loss of a job. Retirement. The pain is profound.
Maybe a time out, a gift to you of a day spent with God, would help heal the wound.
Providence Centre offers Sabbath Stillness Retreat days, a day cushioned in prayer, Scripture passages, reflection questions.
"The escape from the hectic activity," describes Carr, "rest for their souls, rest with God."
The next Sabbath retreat is Dec. 8.
Carr added that someone could even stay overnight should they wish and take spiritual direction. "And we are always open for private retreat days."
Come Dec. 11, Providence Centre produces an afternoon when they delight in the spirituality of Christmas carols, "carols as a source of prayer, that nourish our lives, that speak to the spiritual side of us," says Carr.
By now the blue is being erased by hope, plans and action as you open your heart, soul and life.
Your world – and baby Jesus – are waiting.
(Lasha Morningstar firstname.lastname@example.org)