By MONA JACOBSON
Special to The Gazette
Does this Christmas season have the potential to be the worst Christmas in your personal history?
The economy is unstable. Jobs are disappearing. Baby boomersâ€™ retirement funds have become smoke rising on the altar of recession. I know one young couple with three small children about to lose their home. A very close friend has just buried her 35-year-old son. Most people are struggling this holiday season. Unfortunately, tragedy does not call a truce for Christmas.
As grim as the Christmas of 2008 may seem, the reason for the celebration remains the same. We commemorate Godâ€™s promise of Emmanuel, God is with us, regardless of the circumstances surrounding us.
Iâ€™ve readjusted my own attitude this Christmas, and am seeing the financial crunch as a blessing in disguise. Taking away the consumerism crazies may just return us to the true ambiance of Christmas with a bonus of better mental health.
When I looked at my living room stacked with shoulder-high boxes of ornaments and decorations, all I felt was dread and stress â€” not a proper attitude for celebration. I decided instead to concentrate on the preparation and waiting for Jesusâ€™ arrival. Before Thanksgiving, I had lovingly and carefully prepared a room to receive four of our grandchildren and their parents. How could I not do the same for the Babe of Bethlehem? Now there is no rush in my mind, only a feeling of excitement about making our home a welcoming place for Jesus and the guests who will be received to honor His birth.
Listening to traditional carols while I decorate or bake reminds me just Who it is that I celebrate. That focus melts the stress into the peace God wishes to be our gift of this season. Each cookie is an offering to the hungry holy family that will be given in love to family and friends in their honor.
Eliminating sending Christmas cards as one way to trim the budget has relieved something that had lost meaning and become a chore. Personal contact with sincere statements and deeds that are faith in action will be a better reminder of the tenderness and compassion that Jesus brought to us in His humanity.
We have set not only recession-friendly dollar amounts on gifts, but also have come to an agreement within our family that gifts will no longer be exchanged among the adults but only purchased for the children. Our prior adult funds will go to charities and churches who also are suffering greatly from the economic crisis but are too often forgotten in these difficult times. What a stress reliever this has been. It also has helped us concentrate on the sacrifice of Godâ€™s gift to us of in his son.
Giving up my picture of having all our family together is something I must do every Christmas. This year God reminded me Mary and Joseph were far from their family in Bethlehem; they could not even give birth to their child in their home or with the comfort and support of family. Iâ€™ve decided this year to thank God that one son will be Jesus to some child and his family as he works 12-hour Christmas Eve and Christmas Day shifts at Rainbow Babies and Childrenâ€™s Hospital as a PICU nurse.
May you find ways to de-stress this difficult Christmas and make the Christmas of 2008 the most Christ-centered holiday of your life.
Jacobson is a licensed professional clinical Christian counselor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-421-0857.