The holiday season is here. As we transition from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years, the rhythm and tradition of the season carry with them memories of previous years as well as the anticipation of the coming events. There is no way to avoid the cultural inertia of the holiday season. For many of us, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. For many others this is anything but the most wonderful time; instead, it is a time of such difficulty that enduring or surviving the holidays is the best hope for the season. For most of us, the holiday season is some mix of wonderful and difficult.
Holiday stress is a common experience for most people. Sometimes the stress is mild and is the sum of the enjoyable, but additional, things to do such as buying gifts, sending cards, decorating, and traveling. For others the stress is more robust in the frantic preparations to host events and the financial stress of buying gifts with tight budgets. Still for some others the stress is nearly unbearable with the obligation to be with family members with whom there is significant unresolved conflict or hurt. Sometimes the stress is mild, but sometimes the stress is excruciating. For some, the clock ticks slowly at the Thanksgiving Day table.
And this year we have our first holiday season during a pandemic. With cases rising and, tragically, deaths rising as well, there are uncertainties (and for some, deep grief) that we have had to endure for months now serving as an anxiety overlay stretched across the holidays. Questions about mask wearing, distancing, and whether it is wise to have all these people together can wear on us as we finalize plans about who to be with, where to be, and how to be there.
It seems everything this year has been unprecedented – because it has been. Decisions during these holidays are no different than how challenging and complicated the pandemic has made every decision in the past seven or so months. What we each need to receive and to give is grace. If family members are significantly more cautious than you are, give them grace. If family members are significantly less cautious than you are, give them grace. If you are conflicted as family obligations run counter to personal health and safety, let grace flow toward others and toward yourself. With the indwelling of the Spirit, we can offer more grace than we think – and we can receive it as well.
We may have to grieve the loss of a normal holiday season this year. It is ok to grieve that. There is something to learn in grief. Some of us may have to go small this holiday season and there is nothing wrong with that. It may take grace and humility to accept this year just can’t be what we had all hoped. It may take the grace and humility it took two travelers expecting their first child with when no one would give them a place to stay. They stayed in a barn and it was enough.
The key to this holiday season is grace to others and grace to self.
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