‘Tis the season of contrasts. As we go deep, deep, deep into the heart of winter and acknowledge our darkest night, we feel the pull of retreat and hibernation. We counter the shadows by adorning our homes and Christmas trees with bright lights, burn many candles, and bask in the glow of a fireplace. We are invited to raise our voices as we ‘Hark the Herald’ and declare ‘Joy to the World’ or we may choose to quietly reflect as an accompanying angelic harpist shares her gift of music during a longest night service. We feast on turkey with all the traditional fare trimmings, and turn our leftovers into lighter fare comforting soups.
Our Christmas Eve service this year coincided with our weekly Out of the Cold program, where homeless guests are offered a hot meal and the sanctuary of a warm bed for the night. “All are welcome here.” the minister declared during the evening service. “There are those that have much and those with very little. There is a place here for everyone.” And to affirm the message we ended the gathering by creating a circle, each with a candle in hand, quietly waiting until the wick of one candle could be lit from the fame of another.
During one of my final sessions before stepping back for holidays, a client shared, “I realize now that my feelings can co-exist. I continue to deeply grieve the loss of my mother. One evening I paused by the window overlooking our backyard and I shed tears as I took in the gentle snowfall. She so loved Christmas. But from there I rejoined my family, and smiled with delight as my little twin girls were gleefully readying to decorate our Christmas tree. My feelings can co-exist. My sadness and loss can live alongside my joy and laughter. I don’t have to be one way or another. I can embrace both parts of myself.”
And we too can choose to acknowledge and embrace the seasonal contrasts. The darkness and the light. The feasting and the fasting. The abundance and the scarcity. The gatherings and the solitude. The joy and the sorrow. And as we tune into our own needs, perhaps we can tune into the needs of another. And for those finding it challenging to embrace the contrasts of the season, perhaps for them we can hold the hope and pass the flame.