As we reach the end of 2020, another winter, and the holiday season, some of us feel that we have little to celebrate. Certainly, a pandemic, fires, floods, storms, and conflicts have made this year one of the bleakest and darkest in recent memory.
Yet, if we pause for a few minutes and consider Judeo-Christian traditions, we recognize the season’s great theme: Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. As we light Hanukkah candles in the menorah, we delight in the miracle of enough oil to light the holy temple lamp for eight days, rather than only one. As we string lights on Christmas trees, we remember that a star shone over the manger where Jesus was born. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas with lights to remind us that even in times of darkness and uncertainty, our inner light, the light of God we each are here to be, is ready and able to shine forth.
As much as possible this holiday, turn your mind away from the darkness of what appears difficult and wrong. Instead, let your heart be light by focusing on what is going well and how you are still thriving, even if circumstances are less than ideal.
Some ways to lighten our hearts include:
- Keeping family traditions whenever possible, adapting for things such as sharing dinner together via Zoom. Wear favorite holiday attire. Light candles or turn on Christmas lights at the same time. Toast the collective love and courage which supports you through challenges. Let each person offer a prayer or words of gratitude.
- Getting outside in the neighborhood or local nature centers and gardens to enjoy holiday lights. Walk briskly, breathe deeply, and enjoy the beauty of stars in the sky.
- Being a light for someone else:
- Collect and deliver toiletries, socks, hats, and blankets to a shelter.
- Shop for a home-bound friend.
- Pay the rent, mortgage, and/or medical or utility bills for someone unemployed.
- Drive a friend to doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy, or dialysis.
- Prepare dinner for a colleague with young children.
- Tip delivery drivers or waitstaff 30% or more.
- Giving gifts that ensure a loved one’s continued well-being:
- Massage membership.
- Housecleaning service.
- Auto care, such as car washes, gas cards, and oil changes.
- Coupons for Instacart, Grubhub, or other delivery services.
- Music lessons, sports training, or educational tutoring.
- Supporting organizations which help others in need:
- Houses of worship
- Food banks
- Public libraries
- Social service agencies
- Educational foundations or our alumna mater
- Veterans organizations
- Animal rescue
- Sending holiday cards to friends and loved ones, noting how their light has blessed our lives and how we are paying their goodness forward to bless someone else.
- Phoning friends or loved ones we have not seen recently to wish them happy holidays and say, “I love you.”
- Being patient and respectful, especially when traveling and shopping. A pleasant “Hello” and a warm “Thank You” may be the kindest words service workers hear all day.
- Finding at least one thing to celebrate every day. Anything from finishing all the laundry, to beginning a new project, to making the potato pancakes and gingerbread from scratch counts. Note these in a journal or calendar daily, then review and celebrate them later next year.
Remember especially that the reason for the season isn’t decorations, gifts, and parties, but the resilience and endurance to hold fast to faith, trusting in God even through overwhelming situations. Let us each discover hope in knowing that light shines in the darkness, enough for all we need, enough to birth a bright new year. May our hearts be light as we rejoice in this awe and wonder.© 2020 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks – All rights reserved.