First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua

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December 2014

Pastor Points: "Comfort Ye My People"

The season of Advent opens with the prophet Isaiah’s cry to God: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” (Is. 64:1) Isaiah lived seven hundred years before Christ was born. In our time, during Advent, we also ask God to break through our doubts to bring lasting peace. Now that snow has fallen, we are reminded of the harsh winter we endured last year. December can be challenging! In a world of confusion and pressure, Biblical writers remind us that God can be counted on to restore peace with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Christmas and Advent have merged, in our culture, into one frantic marathon. Yet, if the holiday season is to be meaningful for us, we would do well to spend time in prayer and preparation, wonder and hope. Be especially careful if you have recently suffered loss.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally-known family physician and writer, says it is normal for people to feel sad during the holidays. December may call up memories of departed loved ones. We have included a few of Dr. Wolfelt’s suggestions for handling holiday sadness here. We also thank St. Luke’s Hospice Bereavement Team for providing helpful hints.

Know your physical and psychological limits. Feelings of loss and stress may leave you fatigued. Lower your expectations for cooking and decorating. Ask for help! Try not to fear criticism if you don’t achieve Martha Stewart’s level of perfection.

Spend time with supportive people who encourage you to be yourself and accept your feelings. As you become aware of your needs, share them with your friends and family. Avoid people who bring you down.

Talk about your losses. Your departed loved ones and pets were an important part of your life. Enjoy photographs of Christmases past and let yourself cry a little.

Don’t feel compelled to “hit” all the stores for bargains, even if you have done so in the past. (The commercial hype makes us anxious, so we will spend more—and get more stressed.) Crowds and noise may be painful for you, especially if you are grieving. Avoid malls.

Plan ahead for family gatherings. Decide which traditions should be continued. Make changes, if appropriate. (Your college student may not want a Christmas stocking.)

The most important thing you can do is to be patient and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling—whether it is joy or sorrow. Remember that, even though Christmas sale signs have been outside the stores since Halloween, each holiday is only 24 hours long! Be sure to take care of yourselves as we approach winter, my dear friends. And have a joyous and memorable Christmas!

Pastor Joyce

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