Make your home, your church, full of human warmth.

Christmas is a difficult time for anyone willing to be honest.  One can’t heal what one does not feel.

Christmas is a season full of expectations.  The perfect family event.  The perfect meal.  The perfect church service.  The perfectly sung anthem or carol.  The perfect response to a gift given. The perfect family meal. The perfect Christmas day.

We are told that it was expectations that killed many in Jewish concentrations camps.  The expectation that “we will be free by Christmas” was the cause of so many deaths in sleep the days after Christmas in Concentration camps.

On the other hand, if we can feel the pain of past Christmases that did not turn out as ideal, then we begin to step on the path of the feeling which will lead to the road of healing and the overpass of joy.

A friend recently advised me not to write about the church in these days around Christmas and she was right. The temptation was seductive. Is seductive.   So many of us, at Christmas, tend to wander back into dangerous neighborhoods in our thoughts – in our memories – in our experiences. We go there because they are unresolved.  We go there because we have not yet forgiven the people who hurt us, who may still be hurting us.  Past partners.  Past prison guards.  Past bishops. Past bosses. Past wars.Past prison guards. Past hurts. Past childhood experiences.

The slippery slope of “the perfect or ideal Christmas” is like eating a sugar plum coated in broken glass.  Yes, it sparkles in the candlelight, but beware.

These are days of high expectations and low self-care.  Write out 100 words to yourself today and place them under the tree.  It takes 5 minutes. Open the envelope Christmas morning and read it to yourself out loud in a mirror.  Be your own coach, your own mystic, your own saint, your own clergy.

“Charles, sweetie, yes you are alone this morning.  And yet Sugar-the dog is here and she loves being on your lap.  You are warm, not cold.  Alive, not dead. Yes, you are aging.  Yes, your life did not turn out as you imagined.  But it turned out better than you could have even believed possible and that is precisely because the terrible way you were treated led to the work you are doing to forgive, to thrive, to contribute, and to help others abused by those they thought were there to care for them. Get up.  Shower. Make a great breakfast.  Watch a lovely movie. make some good pots.  Don’t self-anesthetize with any of your coping mechanisms. Eat moderately, drink no alcohol – it ruins your sleep. Watch only intelligent tv.  Listen to good books. take a long walk on the beach and feel compassion for the church as it implodes and feel no hate, only love, and compassion.  know the feeling of gratitude for having survived that shipwreck.  See the beach on which you have washed up.  And be joyful this Christmas Day.  And every day after that. Joy is the only worthy gift of Christmas, but it is hard-won.  It is won by feeling the pain so that you can heal the memory and live.  Live. Live.”

(Written by hand and placed in an envelope for Christmas Day 2021, under the sparkling Christmas tree in a cedar loge on a green island in the blue Salish Sea.)

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