Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Thrill of Hope

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

O Holy Night is without doubt my favourite carol. There is something so poignant that speaks of the expectation of Advent, the hopeful waiting of a people waiting for their Saviour and on that night hope finally broke through in the most unexpected way.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

After all this time, hope has won. All the wars and fighting for home, the longing for rescue, made worth it because a baby was born. A new life that would herald a new hope for the whole world. A new hope because as The Message translates it:

“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.”

The Creator God of Heaven and Earth came to be with us. Emmanuel.

He came to experience everything human life has to offer, from filing his nappy, to dying the ultimate death and everything in between. More than that, he came to love us in our humanity. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says this:

“And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

And whatever this Christmas may bring, I pray that the hope that was born in a Bethlehem stable carries you through and that you may be able to rejoice, however weary your world is tonight.

Coping with Christmas

Christmas, a time of unadulterated joy and happiness. No tears allowed, faces must display smiles at all times and sadness must be hidden. Sometimes, it can seem like these are the unwritten Christmas rules.

I have no desire to be a scrooge here, I happily indulge in Christmas coffee, a mulled-wine candle and fairy lights as soon as the 1 December rolls around! The thing is, I see something profoundly melancholy about Christmas. There is great joy at the birth of a King, but there is also great fear in the Christmas story which I think we ignore all too readily and that I think can speak particularly to those with mental health problems.

The Christmas story isn’t one that tells us life is going to be happy and fluffy because Jesus came. It’s one that tells us that on the darkest of nights, God shows up in the most unexpected ways, using the most unexpected people to enact his rescue plan for a world gone awry.

Mary was a pregnant teenager, brave in her willingness to follow God’s plan, but the text tells us her first reaction was “troubled”. There is something in the story of Mary, mother of Jesus which speaks most profoundly of Jesus, King of Heaven and Earth, as a helpless baby. In a song from Graham Kendrick’s “Thorns in the Straw”, he puts it beautifully.

“And as she watched him through the years

Her joy was mingled with her tears

And she’d feel it all again

The glory and the shame

And when the miracles began

She’d wonder, who is this man?

And where will this all end?”

When I read this story of a young woman used in an incredible way by God to carry out His rescue plan, I cannot help but think of those for whom Christmas can seem to make the darkness around deeper.

And when everyone around you is full of happiness and joy, it can be even more difficult to grapple with your own feelings of sadness or emptiness. Whilst it can be tempting to stuff down the sadness with mulled wine and minced pies, we’ve put together a few tips to help get you through the season of goodwill.

  1. Make sure you get regular fresh air.
  2. Try and eat little and often (with the exception of Christmas Dinner!) to keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent that crash.
  3. Give yourself a break – if being with family members is tough, make sure you have times away with friends or some down time by yourself.
  4. Staying up until 3am watching Christmas films might feel like a good idea but ensuring that you get good and regular sleep can help to keep your mood more stable.
  5. Keep talking. It can be tempting to keep your feelings to yourself to avoid being a burden, but life doesn’t stop because it’s Christmas! Take advantage of Christmas coffees to meet up with your friends or mentor.
  6. Manage your merriment: alcohol is a depressant and won’t make you feel better in the long run. Just stick to a glass or two!
  7. Plan ahead and work out which parts of the season you might struggle with and try to put in nice things around the difficult parts.

We hope you have a peaceful Christmas, and if you’re struggling, remember that the King endured Christmas in a stable to be amongst us and Emmanuel; God With Us.

 

This article first appeared on Threads:

http://www.threadsuk.com/coping-with-christmas/