Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry or Mourning? by Donna Mann

I’m writing this blog on Christmas day after listening to the world leaders offer their seasonal message, finishing with a variety of familiar terms. Although they spoke about reconciliation, reaching out to one other and God’s gift of love in Jesus, Pope Francis’ candid statement, “there are many tears this Christmas” left me thinking.
How does the adjective, Merry, fit in the midst of ‘many tears’ ? And how does one show care and consideration of another when greeting? We might wish or want others to have a Merry Christmas, but are they in a situation or frame of mind that they or even God can/will actually achieve it? There have been times in the valleys of my own life that I wanted to hear a greeting with different words than one that left the suggestion that I could be or wanted to be merry. 

However, I need to say that I love the Advent and Christmas season right up to the 12th night. Our tree goes up on December 1st and often doesn’t come down until January end. The lights, festive colours, turkey and pudding, visits, choosing cards, making handmade gifts all year, preparing the stockings and attending church are all part of my feeling-at-home in the season.

I will reflect on a few situations to explore some early feelings of being uncomfortable with this word merry. Because of parents going south and later adult children wanting to be at home around their own tree, our family day was early in December. 

The 25th, free of home responsibilities during my active years of ministry, gave time to visit hospitals, nursing homes and sometimes prisons where I often saw sadness. More recently Facebook, news feeds and emails bring the world to the kitchen table with people’s tragedies. Sometimes we can set personal sorrow aside and get into, submit and give thanks for everything Christmas represents in our life - and sometimes we can't. And the happy person who calls out Merry Christmas as we walk down the grocery store aisle doesn't have a clue what burdens we might be carrying in our hearts for ourselves or others.

My mother died on December 11th, 1983, making the season difficult. Returning to our home in Alberta and leaving my father, planted another level of grief. Arriving back to my settlement charge, I found great comfort in the ‘Blue Christmas’ or ‘Longest night' services.

Mom’s death at this time of year taught me to be a sensitive and caring minister, to listen with the third ear (heart), maybe more than seminary managed. I learned not everybody wants to feel merry, happy and joyful on any given day, nor do they want others to assume they are. 

 I have a few days left until the 12th day, and I hope to balance grief and grace, despair and laughter, beauty, pain and battle as Sarah Clarkson writes in her recent award winning short story. Perhaps then I will be able to offer a greeting that meets the need of those who God puts in my path.

I trust the Christmas Spirit of Love has, or is about to visit you, in whatever part of the world you live.

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Peter Black said...

Donna, thank you for this candid and poignant post. Your personal journey has certainly imparted to you deep understanding and an empathetic insight into the needs of those you've serve and do serve.~~+~~

Donna Mann said...

Thanks Peter - There seems to be many areas locally and worldwide to grieve, even in the midst of God's love.

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