Post Christmas Blues: is Christmas only for the children?

I hate the beginning of a new year. Where I live in the north-west of England the weather is discouraging. It is dark in the mornings and at tea-time; it can be dark all day on a day like today with continuous grey skies; sheets of rain driving across the moors and wind that gets into the house through every nook and cranny. I miss 2014. I miss Christmas, the lights decorating trees and garages, lamp posts and window frames. I miss the clutter of Christmas, the Christmas cards on every shelf; the red scented candles, even if I thought it too dangerous to light them; the torn pieces of wrapping paper in the waste paper bin waiting to be recycled. I miss the magic of the Christmas story-the shepherds being greeted on a starry night by angels singing; Mary’s miraculous pregnancy and birth; the dream and protection through Joseph; the guiding star and another dream guiding the wise men.

And now its a new year; forget the old and bring in the new. Everything is back to normal whatever normal is to me and you. Back to the same old daily life. Forget about peace on earth; and light shining in the darkness. Everything is back to how it was before; uninspiring and secular. And what makes it worse in the Methodist church is the Covenant service. Do you know the words?

 I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. Gracious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You are mine, and I am yours. May it be so forever. Let this covenant now made on earth be fulfilled in heaven. Amen.

I am no martyr. I don’t want to suffer, to be laid aside, to be brought low, to be empty, to have nothing. Why do we have to declare it and especially at this time of year? Where is the hope for the good things of the kingdom? Where is hope at all? Emotionally, it sucks.

I would much rather be doing; to be employed; to be exalted; to be full; to have all things. In the past I have resisted the Covenant service. No, I don’t want to say it; to make that vow to our three-in-one God. I would much rather have my desires and God’s coincide rather than declare wholeheartedly I yield whatever the outcome.

Is it not enough that I am child-less; or child-free depending on my perspective at the time? Christmas is a time that heightens my child-less state. Do you need to take more from me? What is it that you want from me?

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!’ he said, “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. (Matthew 16:21-23)

It is a bleak message. It is a wonder that we follow Jesus at all. Or is it…? Behind those blunt words from Jesus, is there something more than a personal rebuff. For Jesus it was so important for his disciples to ‘get’ it.  A few minutes earlier, or so it was recorded, Peter had just declared that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus had then commended Peter for knowing this by ‘my Father in heaven’ . What is going on? Has Peter fallen from grace so quickly?  Or can it give us hope that Peter who became the ‘rock’ could stumble and mistake the things of God? Like Peter, do we just have glimpses of revelation in the midst of massive blunders.

These last two Christmases have not been easy for me. No, I am being brave; as an adult  many  Christmases have been emotionally challenging due to one issue or another. Christmas can highlight loss; relationship difficulties; unrealised expectations; failures; personal and work related stress. I have suffered and struggled (my own personal jihad, if I dare whisper that name) and I have been greatly blessed. Not always at Christmas. I can prefer Lent, Holy week and Easter. Those times allow you to experience the whole gamut of emotions. When you are stripped of the things you value, clarity can be found. And love. Strange that. I didn’t think that suffering could bring both blessing and love.

Thank goodness it is still Epiphany, just! An epiphany is a revelation.

There’s a human yearning for signs. Life would be so much easier at each twist or turn if there was a clear pointer forward. Wrestling with which way to go can be an uncomfortable experience. God offers signs. God offers these in ways which can challenge a too easy demand for a personal answer. God’s signs are touched with mystery and wonder. Epiphany is the season of signs. These aren’t personal answers to prayer, but  signs of God’s glory revealed in the world. The wise men follow a sign, not by an easy route and they get lost on the way. The sign is the star leading them to the birth of the Saviour.  There they encounter a greater sign than the star; the baby in whom God was mysteriously and wonderfully incarnate. (Rev. Christine Perry: an extract from her sermon on Covenant Sunday; Jan 11 2015)

  ‘ A cold coming we had of it,

just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.’  

‘All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death?

There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt.I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.  

(Extracts from: Journey of the Magi by T.S.Eliot)  

I think that I have seen signs amongst my fellow bloggers. Check them out and see what you think.

https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/68303232/    Take a peep at her poetry especially the one entitled “More important than having control”

https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/40277979/   Reflect on his posts especially the one entitled: Lord, I gift you my emptiness

Admire her honesty in poetry and prose and especially the one entitled: “First Snow & The New Year”

http://lljostes.wordpress.com/   She has lovely posts. For the connection here please read her post: January 5 Empty But Full

https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/71220657/   This in many ways is a heart rendering blog. For today, learn from her post: “Just because they are different”

https://sharethecoffee.wordpress.com/    Please check out the post “Merry Boxing Day”. It made my heart feel glad.

And there are so many more who I am just getting to know. Each one of you are stars guiding our way. Thank you.

And finally, my question again is: is Christmas only for the Children? I love gentle comments even if you want to disagree with what I have written.

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About Gentle Breeze

Julia is married to Kevin. They live together in Todmorden with their black and white cat Willow. Todmorden is a small rural town nestling among the Pennine hills in the Upper Calder Valley, on the border of West Yorkshire and Lancashire. Julia is a mixture of contradictions. She happily shares her email address with her husband; yet when she married she kept her own surname.
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8 Responses to Post Christmas Blues: is Christmas only for the children?

  1. Christmas can be hard, all around us it seems to be about different things, that don’t always match up to what we believe and can easily distract and taunt us. Even when we dwell on one of the true messages – waiting, or hope for example, it is not always easy or joyful, sometimes it brings us face to face with the most challenging areas of our lives, and again is in conflict with the images we see on tv and even that we hear from friends and neighbours. I don’t think Christmas is just for children, but it isn’t all candy cane, whichever way you look at it.
    I think it’s fine to stick around in epiphany for a little longer too, even if the calendar says something different! We still have a nativity up!
    Glad you are finding places of communion.

    • Thank you for commenting. I think that your blog is one of the guiding stars that I am just getting to know. I still remember your post with the picture of Mary and Jesus surrounded by angels that I reflected upon. I hoping to catch up with your recent post soon. Julia

  2. jannatwrites says:

    I don’t think Christmas is only for children, but I do agree that the season can cast a spotlight on our own difficulties because they go against what we come to expect from the “joyous, happy” holiday. This year was difficult for me and the difficulties likely won’t end any time soon. Still, I don’t believe I’d like to say that covenant, because, like you, I don’t want to invite trials and turmoil, but shall endure them as they are brought into my life. I wish you the best as you navigate the new year. I hope you find peace.

    • Thanks for commenting. First I want to apologise. I have just discovered that I put the wrong address to your blog. I hope you realised that it was your post I was praising as one of my guiding stars. I have re-edited to rectify the mistake.
      I am glad you think Christmas is for all of us. I think the question was rhetorical and asked with a kind of sad irony because sometimes I wonder if in our Churches and in popular culture we infantilise Christmas. Then as we begin to grow up we dismiss the message as a fairy tale just as we do with Father Christmas as the song on my post implies. I have even heard it said: “Christmas is just for the children”. I am as big a child as anyone and I would like to reclaim the mystery and wonder of it all as an adult. The other thing I find difficult is the emphasis on families at Christmas time. If you don’t have a family, it is small or your family is dysfunctional in some way, it heaps on the pressure; or can cause you to feel excluded. I have no problem with the Christmas story itself. I love that. Maybe that is why I liked your post at New Year with its beautiful imagery about love and ambivalence.
      About the covenant service; this year I actually enjoyed it. I am serious that sometimes suffering (enduring) can bring clarity. When I was stripped of much of what I value, Jesus met me afresh, accepting and loving me. Hope that makes sense. Yes, and even when struggling , I am finding peace. Love, grace and joy, Julia

  3. I can relate to your words and your honesty. I often pray that God makes His desire for me my desire so I am not struggling in obedience. The New Year does bring about the conclusion to my favorite time of year even with loss during Christmas it feels me with hope that I don’t regain until Easter. Thanks for expressing what so many of us feel.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lilka. I am glad you understood where I was coming from. Even when Christmas isn’t exactly what we hope, I never tire of the hope and mystery it brings in the message of Christmas. And I am sad when it is over. Like you, it can feel hard to regain it until Easter. I had begun to cheer up, and then caught a cold virus, which has sent me into hibernation for a few days. Still, I’ve taken a holiday from work and am resting up for a few days recharging my batteries.

  4. I believe christmas is for the child in all of us. Sadly we have to grow up and christmas can be a hard time if things are not right in our would. I hope I can always keep a bit of magic at christmas time and that means making someone else’s christmas. Thanks for the interesting thoughts on this and if I get some time I will check out these other wonderful sites. Have a great day.

    • Thank you for your comment and dropping by. I loved the anticipation of Christmas as a child and the Christmas story. I still do, despite stress and sometimes disappointment when things have been more difficult as an adult. Please check out the sites. they are lovely. Julia

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