Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 27, 2004
Christmas gives me the gift of peace
A colleague in Stettler told me, "I will be glad when Christmas is over." Without thinking, I agreed and said, "Me too."
But when I thought more about why people say that, it convinced me that Christmas makes people stressed.
Indeed it is common to hear that preparing for Christmas is stressful. Perhaps even Mary and Joseph were stressed when it was time for the birth of Jesus and they were outside the comfort of their own home.
Why would it be stressful for us when it is meant to be a festive and a grand celebration? A typical response would be, "Oh just the busy and hectic schedule of preparing, shopping, going to this party and that party, going to children's Christmas concerts, baking, making travel plans." Anyone can enumerate the many activities people generated and eventually made relevant to Christmas.
Are they really necessary to have a meaningful Christmas celebration?
Since I moved to Canada more than seven years ago, the way I celebrate Christmas has changed. One obvious reason is that I am far from my family. In my personal experience, Christmas festivities are not the same because there are certain traditions that I miss, like the Misa de Gallo, which is a celebration of Mass at 4 a.m., nine days before Christmas Day.
As an altar boy, I never missed any of those Masses as I was led to believe we have to make sacrifices by going to Mass that early. But it wasn't really a sacrifice. It was something to look forward to and, on some occasions, altar boys like me stayed at the church sacristy hoping to be the one to ring the church bells to wake people up at 3 a.m. But in Canada with its climate, who would want to go to church at dawn?
It is okay to feel lonely at Christmas. Being lonely is part of the human existence. We acknowledge its presence, but we try not to dwell on it.
As well, I have come to realize I am not the only person in the world unable to be with his family on Christmas Day. Prisoners, street people, militaries deployed abroad, people who have lost their loved ones, patients in the hospital and others may feel some kind of emptiness because of being away from their families. And perhaps there are also those who are happy to be away from their families.
During my eight Christmases in Canada, friends have always invited me to celebrate with their families. That somehow alleviated the emptiness of being alone.
While we do not consider it ideal to be alone during the holidays, we may forget that being alone during this hectic time can be a gift. And it has been for me.
Being alone at Christmas has given me the time and space to be able to reflect and meditate so I don't need to be stressed on Christmas.
What I needed to do is quietly - and in my personal time - pray and give thanks to God for taking on the stresses of being human so that we can be divine.
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