Dry Desert
He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna... in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 8:3

After the longest night of the year on December 21, we get the light and hope of Christmas, then a New Year. With all that, plus good vaccine news this week, I’m feeling hopeful today.


And still, lengthening days and a new calendar year aren't always enough to buoy us out of the depths. This year, many of us have lost people, places, life events, income, health, security.


With so much change, it’s easy for us to also lose touch with ourselves. Take a moment to check in with your body, your heart. Where do you find yourself today?



Don’t judge yourself for how you feel; just notice it.


No matter where you find yourself in this chart, do one thing to reach out for support. Yes, right now! Call or text a friend. (Maybe when you reach out, you’ll empower them to share their own needs.) Write your thoughts in a journal entry. Ask your spouse for a moment to chat. Call your primary care doctor and make an appointment about your mental health. Take a few deep breaths and pray. The closer to red you found yourself, the bigger the action you should take.


If you find yourself in the red zone, skip all those things and go straight to the pros. Here are some quick ways you can access professional help right now:

  1. If you're having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call 911.

  2. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7. Call 1-800-273-8255.

  3. If you're a youth or young adult, text LISTEN to 741-741. If you're a parent of a child/youth, call 211 from a landline or 1-800-203-1234 from your cell phone.

  4. If you're a veteran, call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

Save these numbers in your phone, or put them on your fridge. You never know when you’ll need them—for yourself or someone else.


Reach out when you need help. (Notice how I said when, not if?) Caring for our mental health is a crucial step in attending to our spiritual health. As you read part of Psalm 130 below, remember how deeply our souls long to be near God.


Psalm 130:1, 5-6


Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.


I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in [God’s] word I hope;


my soul waits for the Lord

more than those who watch for the morning,

more than those who watch for the morning.


Amen.

 

More resources at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) CT website: https://namict.org/find-support/crisis-resources


The above chart is adapted from the scientific article linked here.




O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Wie treu sind deine Blätter!“ O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how loyal are your needles (a literal translation of the German)! Have you put up your Christmas tree yet? Traditionally, Christmas trees went up on Christmas Eve and stayed up for the 12 days of Christmas. These days though, family traditions hold sway. Rev. Jill and I put up our tree on the weekend after Thanksgiving. That is the earliest we have ever done it. After the ravages of 2020, it seemed like we needed to start the Christmas cheer early this year.


There is a valid point to be made, however, about not having your tree up too early. Prior to Christmas Eve we are in the season of Advent. It is a season of anticipation, not celebration. The festive nature of a Christmas tree is out of step with the intent of Advent. That does not stop us from putting it up in our homes though...mine included.


I used to think there was a dissonance in having your Christmas tree up at home but being firmly in Advent at church. It struck me as a lack of harmony; a siloization that was clearly inferior to living harmoniously across all areas of our lives.


These days, with a few more laps around the sun on my body's odometer and many more gray hairs on my head, I've changed my mind. As followers of Christ, we do not only live in the present moment. We live in the past, present, and future...all at the same time.


We proclaim this in a myriad of ways. To pick just one, consider what we affirm as we prepare to receive Holy Eucharist: Christ HAS died. Christ IS risen. Christ WILL come again. We are a people who have a touchpoint with this world in this moment, but the fullness of ourselves is outside of this time and not of this place.


So enjoy your Christmas tree at home while you live out Advent at church. Heck, hang an Easter egg on your tree if you want...although I'd prefer you find an empty tomb ornament...but that's a story for another day. Blessings my friends.

Updated: Nov 30, 2020


2020 is finally slouching towards conclusion and Christmas will soon be upon us again. As I reflect on this time of year, it occurs to me that this is when I think of my childhood most. One of my fondest recollections from those past Christmas seasons is A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was a yearly tradition in my house to watch that cartoon. I’m happy to report that Zack and Tommy both like it.


Even after all these years that wonderful story of the Christmas play and the little tree, and Charlie Brown’s angst-filled cry against the commercialism of the season, still manages to tug my heartstrings.


Have you ever read the lyrics of the song “Christmas Time is Here” that plays in the background during part of the cartoon? Have a look:


Christmas time is here Happiness and cheer

Fun for all that children call Their favorite time of the year


Since many of the traditions of the season focus on children, it’s easy to think that Christmas is only for kids. But Christmas is for all of us. Christ came into the world for everyone, even (and perhaps especially) for those who don’t think they need Him.

Snowflakes in the air Carols everywhere Olden times and ancient rhymes Of love and dreams to share


Music is such a wonderful part of this season. We reserve special songs with special words for this time of year, not only carols but hymns as well. Emotions are invoked in their singing that, because they don’t fit in any other place or time, create sacred space for us.


Sleigh bells in the air Beauty everywhere Yuletide by the fireside

And joyful memories there


Christmas is indeed a time of memories: of relishing old ones or creating new ones, or both.


Christmas time is here We'll be drawing near

Oh, that we could always see Such spirit through the year Oh, that we could always see Such spirit through the year...


The last four lines say it all. We tap into something during the Christmas season that should be there every day of the year. How we act when we have the ‘holiday spirit’ is how we should treat everyone everywhere all the time.