The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free…
Luke 4:18 (NRSV)
Is anyone else feeling a little weary as we head into Advent? This last year has been a doozy for our family. It was a year ago Thanksgiving that we found my mom collapsed in her home and began this new journey with stroke-induced dementia. That hit us just shortly after finding out I was pregnant with our third child, and it was not an easy pregnancy. 40 and pregnant was no joke! Add to that the general tone and tenor of the election season, and folks, this lady is spent. The only word that has come to mind lately is weary.
I am weary.
This is the first year that the pre-Advent barrage of Christmas has not grated on my nerves. I have appreciated the twinkly lights and the choruses of “O Holy Night” and “White Christmas.” They have been the antidote to the weariness that has set in over the course of the past several months. I even began decorating the house before Thanksgiving! (Granted, it is just one garland, but it still breaks my standard “no decorating before Turkey Day rule.” I’ve enjoyed getting the Advent and Christmas items finished for my shop. I find myself humming carols and being quite at ease with it.
As I wondered if I was getting soft in my old age, I realized that what I had really needed in the midst of a bleak season of life was hope. I needed the hope of the twinkly lights breaking through the earlier setting sun and grayer skies. I needed the Christmas hymns reminding me that the weary world rejoices always in the thrill of hope that Jesus brings. I needed something to shatter the shroud of negativity and unease, and it would be the Whos in Whoville to do it.
This realization made me wonder – how can we be hope to those around us? I am fairly certain that I am not the only one who has felt weary of late. How can my life be that twinkly light that breaks through another’s darkness? While I did not come up with anything earth-shattering, here are a few thoughts as we head into the holiday season, a time that can be difficult for many.
- Look people in the eyes and smile. I told you, nothing earth-shattering here. However, as I was walking around running errands from here to there, I was shocked by the number of people (myself included) who had their heads down and scurried about. There was no chance of seeing one another’s joy or sorrow. Since then, I have made an effort to look at those I happen to pass and offer a joyful smile and greeting. Does it always happen? No, but I find myself being more mindful of it at the very least.
- Look for the good in others . . . and tell them about it! As a mom of three young children, there are times where I feel like the Grinch. I’m always saying no, or correcting their behavior, or seeing the ways in which they haven’t done XYZ. I forget that they are fully human people who need to know that they are GOOD human people with amazing gifts and abilities and unmeasurable worth. I need to be more mindful to recognize the good they do and ARE, and tell them. This is true for anyone we know. Think of how much better you feel when someone recognizes the good in you – not just something good you did (though that is nice too), but the good IN you. We need to be constant in doing this for others . . . and perhaps for those who make it the most difficult for us.
- Invite people over. This is one that causes me anxiety. With three kids 6 and under, and a creative business in its busy season, I rarely think about inviting anyone over. The house is a mess and I am always scurrying about trying to wrap up projects! For the first time in quite a while, we have a home that is large enough to accommodate guests. This Thanksgiving, the husband and I decided to offer to host if the usual suspects wanted a break. They did, and family gathered at our table for the first of what I hope will be many times. Quite opposite of feeling anxious, I found that I was excited to share our time and our home. I want to be the place that people gather, where our kids’ friends feel welcome, where those without somewhere to go know they always have a place. It was the kind of home my husband and I both grew up in, and it is important for us to take the steps necessary to create that environment in our own home.
- Send happy mail! It seems most of the items in our mailbox (or on our porch) are bills, junk, or from our close friends at Amazon. When the occasional card or letter comes unexpectedly, it is the first thing that’s ripped open. In this age of instant virtual communication, we forget the power of the written, tactile letter or card, something longer than 140 characters and more lasting than a day of posts. I always have the best of intentions, but I am terrible at following through with sending snail mail. This Advent, I would like to develop the habit of ancient correspondence. Perhaps not smoke signals, but at the very least a random card sent sporadically to those near and far.
- Tell people you are thinking of them, and pray for people when you think of them. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has been on my mind or heart, and I just let the feeling pass (especially if it is a priest or someone “in demand”). We know that with God there are no coincidences, so why am I not better at realizing that perhaps He is the one placing people on my heart in a time of need? Maybe they just need to hear a warm voice or see a friendly note, or maybe they are in the middle of something and in need of prayer.
- Seek out those who may be suffering. I remember when we lost my dad, many people came to condole with us in the weeks after his death. Fewer people were there when his birthday and the holidays rolled around that year. Even fewer still remembered in the months and years to follow. Do you know someone who has suffered a loss – death, divorce, unemployment, miscarriage? Be intentional about reaching out and checking in on them. It can seem complicated and uncomfortable. We don’t have to say much, though. Just a simple, “how are you?” can be enough. Grab a coffee, go to a movie, give them a hug, or offer to cry with them. Maybe we can’t cheer everyone up, but we can enter into their suffering and lighten the load for a moment and remind them that they are always held close to the heart of Christ and never forgotten.
Whether these tug on your heartstrings, or something else comes to mind, let us all be more mindful to bring hope to those in our midst this season.
How has someone been an instrument of hope in your life? What can you do to pass it on to someone else?
Copyright 2016 Rakhi McCormick