I love the way the natural world presents itself to us at this time of year. Daylight hours are short. The trees have let go of their leaves. Cold wind sweeping across now-barren yards and fields invites an inward turn—a turn towards rest and reflection, a turn towards silence, a turn towards peace. I suppose those invitations are always with us, but somehow I recognize them more in this season.
I love the glitz and the glam of the holiday season as well—I’ve said this many times before. The lights, the rushing around, the shopping and general air of festivity energize me as well. Still, I feel most “at home” in this season when the sun sets early, the stars come out, and that cold pre-winter wind starts sweeping across the now-barren land. I’m never quite sure why I feel this way. Perhaps it’s because I finally feel I have permission to look inward for a time, permission to rest for a time, permission to slow down. Perhaps it’s connected to pleasant associations from my childhood. I’m never quite sure. But I know I feel at home in this season.
Having said that, I am aware from conversations with many of you over the years that this is the part of the season you like the least. Many of you, quite frankly, can’t stand the darkness, or the cold, or the wind. And for others, the holiday season is challenging for different reasons: remembering loved ones now gone; disappointment with the commercialization of the season; the general stress of preparing for family visits, shopping, fighting the traffic, etc. For all these reasons and more, many people report feeling blue during and after the holidays. The term “Blue Christmas” has become common. For the first time in my ministry I will offer a “Blue Christmas” service this year (Dec. 15). It seems important. Our ministry theme for the month is joy— and I really want to acknowledge and honor all of us who struggle to find real, authentic joy in this season.
Of course, I don’t want to lose sight of joy either. There is much joy to be found in the midst of the holiday season. There is joy to be found in songs of light and gladness, in opportunities for connection, in festivity, in moments of quiet, solitude, rest and peace, and even in the mad rush of shopping, cooking, decorating and visiting. There is much joy to be found.
My prayer for us is thus twofold. First, I pray that in the midst of all our Blue Christmas times, we may find the support and comfort of people who understand what we’re going through and are willing simply to be with us in whatever sadness or pain we may feel. I hope UUS:E can be one source of such people in your life. Second, I pray there will be moments of joy for each of us, perhaps in unexpected places and at unexpected times. I hope UUS:E can be one source of joy in your life during this holiday season. May it be so.
With love, Rev. Josh