Holidays – joy and pain

By Alice Diebel, Intern Minister

The Rev. Mitra Jafarzadeh is on sabbatical.

We’ve done it, St.John’s! We had the Nativity pageant, an unrehearsed play with all kinds of participation in our setting, including a spider in the manger! We had our holiday concert where our amazing choir brought us from the Bleak Midwinter to the joyous African Noel. We had Christmas Eve, complete with a candle-lit Silent Night. (This is the 200th anniversary of the first singing of Silent Night in a church setting. It occurs to me that St. John’s is older than that song.) It has been a great joy working with all of you to bring these celebrations of life and light, peace and love, song and spirit, and hope and compassion into the sanctuary of St. John’s and into your lives.

This season can be conflictual for some of us. It is a Christian holiday and many of us have left Christianity for something more inclusive and this-worldly. The sacred celebration of Jesus’ mythical birth story can seem hypocritical to many Unitarian Universalists who have left the supernatural aspects of faith behind. For others, the season is filled with hectic running around and over-the-top commercialism. If there is one thing UUs can strive for, it is working to eradicate wasteful production and the attachment to “stuff.” It is capitalism at its worst. Some want their children to understand some hopeful meaning of the season while balancing that against what their friends are experiencing.

And yet, for me I still appreciate this season. The carols bring me fond memories, even if they tell stories I don’t believe. (I like The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, after all. Willing suspension of disbelief?) And most UUs have been around long enough to know that we don’t really know when Jesus was born, only that it is likely the early Christians created December 25th as the date to celebrate his birth to lure in the Pagan community. Deck the Halls!

I honor those among us who just cannot do Christmas, period. It may be painful memories of past disappointments, losses that are especially painful at this time of year, or wounds from a childhood religious tradition. May you feel held in love as the season marches on. May the turn of the wheel bring hope as the days grow longer. May you find the quiet places to deepen your self-understanding and emerge stronger on the other side of this chaos. Peace be with you all, and blessings for the New Year.