Christmas Message

I love Christmas! Although I understand it is not in vogue in many places now. I love the celebrations of life, and of the Giver of life. I love the music, the decorations, and the special events. Yet I know that for some, it is a season of painful memories, disappointments, and amplified loneliness. As a psychologist, I recognize that Christmas can be a difficult time, and my patients need extra support as they face family pressures, "anniversary dates" of past hurts, or just feel left out and disconnected. For those hurting, there can be a great divide between the joyous sights, sounds, and cheer—and the tears provoked by the dark side of depression, anxiety, and conflicts intensified in this season. 

It is a challenge to live in the in-between—in-between the rejoicing and the sorrow—where there is a dynamic tension amidst the joy, family, parties, gatherings, sparkles, beautiful lights, parades and festivals on one side, and the anguish of loneliness, dread of family conflicts, re-invasion of past trauma, and financial stress on the other. 

It is a glorious season, and yet one that accentuates both sides of life; the agony and the ecstasy. It is like life everyday, only more so! So how do we manage this life of living in-between? In between the joys and the sorrows? In between the tears and the cheer? In between the darkness of evil and the light of goodness? The old life and the new? While we are being transformed into the image of God, surrendering to God's promise that He will turn all of our darkness into light and make all our crooked places do we live?

While I confess this is easier said than done, here are some proven tools, with which practice makes...progress!

  • What we think about, focus on, concentrate on, and meditate on—these shape our hearts, minds and souls. What we invest in is what we reproduce. What we feed grows. It is actually a creative process. If you feed the negativity, it will grow larger around you like a black cloud that ultimately envelopes you. If you focus on what is good, what you appreciate and are grateful for, that becomes your perspective and experience.  
  • Therefore, if you concentrate on the good in your life—even forcing yourself if you must—to appreciate the smallest blessings, you begin to see how truly rich you are. Your attitude changes, and you are inviting joy to invade your soul, diminishing the grief.   
  • In my book about a  secret code to changing your personality, "The Secret Code to Your Personality: How Cats and Dogs Teach Us to Live and Love," cats and dogs share their wisdom and experience. The attitude of gratitude that many of them display, their Joie de Vivre (joy of life), their readiness to forgive and move on…their lives teach valuable lessons that are life-changing. If you have ever rescued an animal, you know by experience how loving and grateful they can be! Thus the signs in car windows you may have seen displayed by grateful pet owners, "Who rescued who?" Most rescues find ways to thank their new families every day for the rest of their lives! Their delighted owners have regaled me with stories of how these loving pets have enriched their lives and perspectives. 
  • We too have been rescued, fellow believers. We have been saved from eternal judgment and, even now, we are being saved from squandering our lives in selfish and silly pursuits. We are given opportunities to live with great purpose and meaning, our lives transformed by faith, hope, and love. 
  • Despite the struggles and disappointments that are a part of everyone's journey, we have much to be grateful for. As we look at that reality, our temporary discomforts and frustrations pale in comparison. The apostle Paul said that he considered his “momentary, light afflictions" (which included being beaten almost to death, shipwrecked and imprisoned), not to be compared with the far surpassing glory of knowing Christ!.."For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:17, ESV).
  • Darkness does not overcome the light. Turn on a light, light a candle, and the darkness flees. Light a hundred candles, and then a thousand, and the glow is glorious. As a community, we have greater influence together, to stem the tide of darkness.
  • There is always something to rejoice in. Look for it, like a diamond among the sands of the sea, like that pearl of great price hidden from view, like buried treasure. Look for it and you will find it. Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you shall find.
  • As we apply this to the holiday season, we can focus on any and all things that we are grateful for. We can choose to sing songs, rather than grumble about disappointments. We can greet people with a smile, especially those who look like they really need one, and we can slow down amidst the hurried and harried crowd to be the one refusing to join the harassed, and offer a sense of peace. We can take in the special beauty, the music, the decorations, and the true Spirit of the holiday.  We can take it in, and give it away—we can be producers and reproducers of peace, joy, kindness, love, and all that makes the season bright.   

Let us re-dedicate this season to the miraculous, the beautiful, the spiritual.  We can let our tears be turned to cheer. 

© Laurel Basbas 2014