I decided to do an Internet search for “Christmas stress” and to my amazement a page full of sites came up and at the top it said 143,000,000 results! Guess I should have figured someone besides me had something to say about it, I just didn’t expect it to be that many! I hit a site that I felt would have the most honest and simple answer, The Health Channel site! Here is the summary at the top of their page under “Christmas can be stressful”, it said concisely what I was thinking: “Christmas can be a stressful and depressing time for many people. Financial and time pressures, isolation, family tensions, separation and divorce, bereavement, becoming a step-family, or just reflecting on another year gone by can all undermine the Christmas spirit.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!
So my question is, why do we do this to ourselves? I wrote a piece about giving yourself permission to say no or to do what you want to do instead of what you are pressured to do. I had a great response from people said, “Thank you for that, I needed to hear it from someone else!” Glad to be of service, it is something I have to live with myself.
Growing up in the home of the pastor of a congregation everyone expected my parents to be at every single gathering, see every program, visit all the sick or shut-ins, make sure all the families in church that needed help for the holidays had food and toys and somehow they generally pulled it off. I remember the Christmas I turned nine, it doesn’t stand out in my mind because of the wonderful gifts I got, although I am sure my parents did the best they could at getting things from the Western Auto catalog that my brother and I put check marks on, it was because it was a particularly sad one. Daddy led the congregation of a very traditional church, and when I say traditional I mean it in the strictest sense in that the “things they had always done” and they wanted it to stay that way. The first thing daddy was supposed to do was to be the person that handed out the Christmas “pokes” which was a brown paper bag that had an apple, an orange, a couple of walnuts and a few pieces of hard candy and a candy cane to all the children and the adults as far as they would go. Another tradition was that if there was a part in the Christmas play he could act in, he did, and my dad who still had very black hair had it all sprayed silver so he could play an “old man”, funny to me now remembering him pretending to be crippled and unable to walk and sure enough life imitated fiction on down the road. But I digress. That year my dad had a real desire to go and visit his folks on the West Coast but the church board told him he could not go until after all the holiday events at the church were done. Never mind that when all that was done there wasn’t enough time to drive out there, spend a few days and drive back before school was back in session after the New Year, as long as he was there to pass out the pokes and be in the play it didn’t matter what he wanted, he complied. With Christmas over the church was planning the New Year’s Eve “watch night” service which would begin about 10 PM and included Communion and the old-fashioned “foot washing” (I for one am glad that being a child I did not have to participate), and conclude after the clock struck mid-night. With that done my parents were free to do whatever they wanted with the remainder of the holiday that left three days. My dad was very sad that he didn’t get to go home and see his mother, he had a feeling that all wasn’t well with her although he had not heard that from anyone. I remember hearing him say that to my mother and as a child I was worried about his mother for him, like most children I hated to see my dad or mom be sad about anything. On the morning of January 3rd the phone rang in the little house and my dad answered it, I happened to be standing in the little hallway as he answered and stood stock still for a moment. I heard him say, “OK let me know the arrangements and I will try to get there.” When he placed the phone back on the cradle he fell to the floor face down, I was so scared I thought he had died. The crying and praying being done in Armenian gave me no hint as to what was wrong but I knew that whatever it was, it was very bad. Later I heard him tell my mother that the person that called had simply said, “Harry, your mother is dead!” Wow, there must be something said to sharing news like that a little more gently I would say. Daddy made a few calls, packed us in the car and headed west for the funeral. He was told that the schedule was so tight with the funeral home that the funeral would go on whether or not he made it there in time for the service. It took three days of day and night driving; I don’t remember him stopping to sleep, although he must have at some point.
While he was driving and we were all asleep he had a wonderful experience. He said he was crying and began to when suddenly a presence filled the car and his mother began to speak to him in her native tongue of Armenian. She said to him, “Son, do not grieve for me, I am happy and I am with the Lord where you will join me one day.” He said from that moment his tears dried and he knew that all was well, he would miss his sweet mother, but he knew where she was and that all was well. I was so privileged to be with him when he joined her and the heavenly host and since there is no time in eternity I’m sure to Margaret Mushegan it seemed only moments since she left before she greeted her son Harry, having already welcomed her husband Aram, her daughter Mary and sons, Mack, Harding and the baby of the family, John.
Christmas time should be a time of sweet memories because you never know who will be missing from your table next year, and making new memories for those around you especially the children. At some point during the holidays sing Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and the First Noel and while you do remember the Son of God and how He gave His life to us, first in the manger and then on a cross. Feel the love I am sending out to you right now, Merry Christmas!