Let us be merry
We started December out with a lot of hope, expectation, and anticipation. There was a lot to look forward to in the Hawkins’ household in December! We had planned a trip to Texas for our niece’s Quinceañara—the first time we’d seen our Texas family since pre-2020. We had Christmas concerts and holiday showcases on the books. We had family traditions and gatherings planned. And then, on December 1…we had the flu.
Actually, I had the flu—and not just any flu. This was the type of flu that had Joey Googling if he should take me to the hospital because my fever was so high. This was the type of flu that had Pastor Mark emailing our elders asking them to pray for my deliverance. This was the type of flu that caused me to have a fever dream of Pastor Rachel caring for me at my bedside, but instead of dabbing my forehead with a washcloth, she had bird’s wings for arms. This was the type of flu that I still feel like I’m recovering from it even though it has been two weeks. This flu has made me feel like I am spending December in the doldrums.
The trip to Texas was cancelled. The flu baton was passed to my dad and my daughter, and the family traditions and Christmas concerts were missed. All the hope and expectation that I started the month out with, gone. It was a December to remember, but for all the wrong reasons.
I assume that some of you can relate to December not living up to your expectations. I was talking to a member of our church yesterday who had to postpone a trip due to illness. I could hear the disappointment in her voice. Or another friend who reflected on how difficult December is for her this year after losing her spouse last Christmas. Another friend lamented the darkness of this time of year, and how it makes them feel down. There are times that we sit in this season that is supposed to be filled with celebration and joy, and we don’t feel like there is much to celebrate. December is our darkest month, and yet it’s supposed to be filled with light.
My shift in attitude came through one of those moments that felt like the Holy Spirit was shouting in my ear. In my Step Study through Celebrate Recovery, our lesson this week was on gratitude, and I have been keeping a daily Gratitude journal as part of the work. On a Ministry Committee call for the Presbytery this week, our committee chair had us each share something for which we are grateful this Christmas season. Everywhere I looked this week, there were little things prompting me to think on gratitude. It was that practice of expressing what I am grateful for that shook me out of my mood.
I’ll admit, at first it was hard to find anything to be grateful for. The first day, I wrote that I was thankful for the New York Times Puzzle Mania edition. It was all I could think of at that moment. But as time went on, gratitude started to spill out of me. I was grateful that Joey has been home for most of the month. I was grateful that Aurelia’s flu wasn’t nearly as bad as mine. I was grateful for my family, especially my sister-in-law who texts me to check in even when I don’t text back. I was grateful for my two friends who texted me out of the blue telling me that the Holy Spirit had brought me to mind and prayed for in the middle of the night. I am grateful that the Lord continues to show himself faithful and meets me exactly where I am at with exactly what I need. I am grateful that in just a few days we get to celebrate Christmas, Christ come to earth. As I began this journey of gratitude, I was reminded that the hope and joy of December isn’t tied to events or traditions, it’s tied to God with Us, Immanuel!
If you find yourself in a season where you don’t feel like celebrating, I encourage you to start a small practice of gratitude. Name one thing that you are grateful for, then another, then another. You will be surprised at how it is hard at first, but suddenly it feels like you have an exponential potential for gratitude. While you do this, remember that there is still hope, there is always hope. We live in the hope of the love that came down at Christmas. We live in the hope of Christ’s return. We live in the hope of all things being made new. Because of this, we always have reason to be grateful.
Then let us be merry,
Put sorrows away!
Our Savior, Christ Jesus,
Was born Christmas Day!
(A Virgin Unspotted, traditional English Christmas carol)