The Christmas and New Year season is an exciting time but it can also be a time of frenzy. Is it going to be a wonderful time filled with fun, peace, joy, laughter, optimism, fellowship, family, friends, good food, giving, winter activities, cozy evenings, and fond memories? Or is it going to be a miserable time of stress, anxiety, sadness, frustration, hurry, loneliness, disappointment, overworking, overeating, overdrinking, and overspending? The choice is ours. Of course, we will all choose the first option. But what do we need to do for achieving that wonderful time? There are so many ideas but let me focus on just three:
1) Get enough sleep. It may sound too obvious, and even simplistic, but the fact is that too many of us get too little sleep. God gave us the night to rest and sleep. Science tells us that when we get good sleep, the body does its best repair work. We feel fully refreshed. Research has shown that those who sleep less than six hours have their cortisol levels rise. That means a higher stress level for the body, throwing our physical, psychological, and emotional health off balance. Keep the balance with enough sleep.
2) Live in the present moment. People generally live in the past (with guilt, regret, resentment etc) or in the future (planning, worrying, imagining, etc). In the process what they are doing is destroying the joy of living in the present moment. This is not any new age philosophy but straight from the gospels. For lack of space, let me give just two examples from what Jesus taught: One: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Why did Jesus include that in that most important and only prayer he taught us? Once I have the food for this day (not only the physical food but also other human needs like shelter, clothing, friendship, acceptance etc), I can be happy for today, even though there are other problems and challenges that I may have to face tomorrow. Two: Every one of the beatitudes are given in the present tense (Blessed are the poor, Blessed are those who mourn, etc). That means the blessedness God is offering is not a future promise but a present reality. So focus on the present moment.
3) Take inspiration from Bible: Selections that the Church proposes for our reflection each Sunday will have some insights that will help us. For example, in today’s 2nd Reading, St. James has very practical advice for us: “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient.” (James 5:7-8). Precious advice we all need to practice.
4) Ponder the Christmas mystery with carols: What is the mystery? God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son to us in the most vulnerable human form possible – a helpless baby. Ponder this mystery. A very practical and easy way to do this is by listening to the words of your favorite Christmas songs – at home, in the car, etc.
Try doing these four ideas, and you will be amazed at how easily you get into the spirit of the season. You will be happily surprised that you are not only enjoying every moment of this season but also that you are spreading the same feeling to others.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal