Holidays

What If Christmas Isn’t Merry?


What pops into your mind when you think of Christmas?

Colored lights, tinsel, festive decorations? Familiar music, parties, family gatherings? Joy, the promise of a Savior, God with us?

How about death, loss, and grief? That’s probably not what you expected.

Christmas is a time for glad tidings of great joy, but we also must be sensitive to those for whom the holiday invokes painful memories and highlights difficult circumstances. This isn’t the cheeriest of holiday greetings. I hope you’ll forgive me for reminding us that we’re likely to encounter folks that can’t quite share our holly-jolly spirit.

Nothing Personal: Eating Disorders & Christmas

So far, I haven't thrown the Christmas tree out the window, but I feel if one more inappropriate comment is made at a holiday party/festivity, a certain sidewalk could possibly look a bit merrier.

"It's nothing personal." It's a well-worn phrase, sometimes used as a dismissive slight, just to get a dig in.

Unfortunately, in the context of holiday parties, this personal minefield, be it in the form of a question or comment, can wreak some extremely sensitive havoc in our lives, especially those of us who are in recovery from eating disorders. Be it a personal question or a personal comment, the impact is still destructive and can tempt the best of us to look for the nearest Christmas tree to launch out of the nearest portal.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue:
and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Proverbs 18:21

Indeed.

Some people out there may think I've completely lost my sense of humor. Can I be honest here? I think those are often the people who find "fat jokes," for example, extremely funny. Laughing at someone who's struggling- hilarious.

Nevertheless, as someone in recovery from eating disorders, the holidays can be a touchy and downright miserable situation to be in, when a person asks or comments about food or body image issues; it's triggering. A few examples…

Surviving the Holidays: Some Tips for People in Recovery

For most people, the weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year are a special time of joy and celebration. Yet, it can be an extremely difficult and stressful time for those who are just beginning to recover from addiction to alcohol and drugs. Spending the holidays in a shelter or residential recovery program is hard.

Here's a few simple thoughts that can make the experience a little more tolerable

A. Remember the spiritual significance of the holidays - This time of year is a major commercial event for America's retailers. It is also a time for special celebrations of family and goodwill. Still, we must remember that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season". Above all else, we are celebrating God's sending of His only Son to be our Savior and Redeemer. Keeping Christmas as a spiritual celebration puts all of our other expectations for the holiday season in proper perspective.

B. Don't isolate - The holidays can be the loneliest time of the year for the recovering addict. On one hand, we are reminded of all the relationships we've messed up. Some will spend Christmas haunted by memories loved ones and friends they've alienated with destructive and manipulative behavior. We know, too, if we want to keep our sobriety, we must avoid people who are still using alcohol and drugs. What's the solution? Take advantage of the new sober acquaintances God has brought your way. Reach out to those around you and use this holiday season s as a special opportunity to get to know them better.

Holidays are so difficult; Can I just stay home?

Holidays are so difficult; my in-laws are so mean to me. Can I just stay home?

First of all, in order to stay home, would you have to make up an excuse or could you tell the truth about why you wanted to bow out of the activities? In this case, doing the right thing may be very difficult, but no less necessary.

I would guess that you could come up with several people who would be very hurt and disappointed by your absence. My advice is to focus on them. Make those few people your comfort for the day. You can sit by them, talk to them and lean on them for support. Focus on your support system instead of those few hurtful people who try to make you suffer.

The Dress We Obsess About (Eating Disorders)Premium Content

Two words can strike fear and unrealistic expectations for many of us ladies out there.

The dress.

It's probably a safe bet to say there has been at least one which has plagued us. It may be that prom dress, eradicating high school awkwardness. It may be the fairytale torture known as the perfect wedding dress, transforming us into the bride to end all brides. It may also be any variety of special occasion dresses: the high school reunion show stopper, the special event evening gown, created to dazzle or the pageant dress, guaranteeing us a tiara.

The dress. The notorious, nail biting, nerve-wrecking, insanity creating dress. Been there? If not, be patient, you probably will be.

There have been a lot of desperate diets and exercise regimes plotted, all in the name of the big dress. We push, pull, cinch, torture, starve and manipulate ourselves into all kinds of predicaments. Like when I was a bridesmaid at my cousin's wedding.

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Do You Belong In Bethlehem?Premium Content

What would Jesus think if I showed up in Bethlehem?
I’ve been trying to spend some time each day during this Christmas season at the nativity scene, wondering about the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of each character. And I found myself wondering how Jesus would respond to the presence of a disabled person in that holy circle.

I’d probably try to stay away. I’d list endless excuses to stay in my own warm, safe environment and let someone else go.

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Christmas: It's About the FoundationPremium Content

Appearances can deceive.

Over the weekend I watched one of those DIY shows. A young woman purchased a cute, completely refurbished bungalow. After a few months the surface restorations began to crumble because the previous owner merely covered over serious, costly-to-repair problems.

As a first-time owner, she was overwhelmed and tempted to walk away. But the house had a solid foundation and structure. Experienced professionals peeled away the shiny appearance, exposed the systemic issues, and repaired them properly.

The show reminded me of a story. An architect visited the Wexner Art Center at Ohio State University. The building design reflects a post-modern view of reality. Pillars support nothing. Staircases go nowhere. The idea is that there’s no pattern—to the building or to life.

As the guide explained the designer’s vision, the architect asked, “I wonder if they designed the foundation the same way.”

“Of course not,” replied the guide, “the building would collapse.”

Exactly.

Maybe Christmas is a bit like that. As we get lost in the lights and tinsel, the gifts and expectations, we forget that appearances can deceive.

Maybe we decide the whole thing’s a sham. It’s all wrapping paper and commercialism, and when you strip that away there’s nothing worthwhile. So we toss aside the whole notion and walk away.

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"Whosoever Will" is God’s Christmas Gift to the WorldPremium Content

John 3:16-18 NRSV
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Those who believe in Him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Today is Christmas, the day traditionally that Christians celebrate the birth of our Lord. Surrounding this tradition are such things as nativities, Christmas pageants, Christmas carols, family celebrations, gift giving, and the like. But as a Christian, I believe that it’s very important that I not so focus on the Child in the manger that I fail to see either the Savior on the cross or the King returning in the clouds.

The Christmas story is one of amazement and wonder. Music and stories sometimes reduce to the story to actually less than it is (and was):

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head:
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay;
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

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Christmas Prayers & BlessingsPremium Content

Here is a series of Christmas prayers and blessings. Included are prayers for a season of grief, sorrow or loss and for those who struggle at this special time of year.

Christmas Dinner Prayer

In the peace of this season our spirits are joyful:
With the beasts and angels,
the shepherds and stars,
with Mary and Joseph we sing God's praise.
By your coming may the hungry be filled with good things,
and may our table and home be blessed.
Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts,
which we are about to receive from Thy bounty
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Attributes of Thankfulness

Colossians 3:12-17 NRSV
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

November, traditionally in America, is the month where we turn our thoughts toward being thankful. One of the things I’ve been enjoying on Facebook are the many who are daily listing the things for which they are thankful. In a cynical world, thankfulness silences the critics and raises one’s spirit.

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