Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holidays: The best and worst of times

By Mary Erickson

As we progress in the anticipation of one of the holiest seasons of the liturgical year, we are reminded daily of the joy and angst this time of year brings to all of us. The media constantly bombards us with the realities of broken relationships, depressed people led to violent acts against themselves or others and the knowledge of those people who don’t have enough food to eat or shelter from the winter cold. This year the economic woes throughout the world have brought the stark reality of having to do with less and, in many cases, having to do without completely.

All of this should be enough to deal with but too often we have the struggles that occur within families throughout the year, and the holidays seem to magnify troubled relationships in the context of our expectations. Don’t all of us look back fondly on a Christmas scene from our childhood and wish we could recreate the warmth, happiness and loving spirit that we felt as children? I can remember being four years old and peeking out and watching my father put together a rocking horse for me, wondering why my dad was doing that because Santa was coming that night! Alas, my reverie was soon broken when my older brother, nine years old, told me that Daddy was Santa. That revelation was probably my first and most memorable disappointment in the holiday season.

Five decades have passed and with each passing year it is more apparent that those good old days that seem so precious really were elusive and a projection of all my desires for tightly-knit and happy family. For me, the vision of a Norman Rockwell family scene didn’t exist and all my wishing for it simply didn’t produce the image. What I had was a family of people who loved each other but couldn’t always get along very well and for whom the holidays only seemed to exacerbate our dysfunctional relationships.

Advent is a season of hope that encourages each of us to trust in the goodness of each other and to see that through our humanity we have the potential to bring about positive change if only we try. The good news of the coming of the Christ child symbolizes the opportunity to begin again in spite of the challenges and hardships we face. If there is one thing that I have learned it is that my vision of a perfect and loving family is probably not very realistic. What I know for sure is that I have a family of strong-willed individuals who at this point are blessed with good jobs, good health and each other. For that I am immensely grateful and I pray that our time spent together will be loving and a reflection of caring and kindness towards each other. If it doesn’t pass the Norman Rockwell family scene test, I am fine with it. I will know that we tried and there is always hope for next year. Blessings for a happy and holy holiday season!!

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