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Have a Holy Christmas

The Sooner Catholic, December 17, 1995

By John Mallon

Christmas is coming, and we at the Sooner Catholic pray that all our readers have a Christmas filled with joy and wonder and happiness. But we know that for many among us it will be a difficult time, a painful time. The holidays are often difficult for many people. For one thing, in our city it is the first Christmas since the terrible bombing of April 19. I would especially like to address victims of this tragedy and anyone else who may be experiencing depression, grief, pain, sadness and mourning this Christmas season. 

I think these difficulties are especially difficult during the holidays because we tend to be unmerciful to ourselves at these times. We may say to ourselves, “It’s Christmas, I’m supposed to be happy!” “I’m not supposed to feel this way!” “Everybody else is happy, I should be too!” “I have to put up a good front, so I won’t ruin it for everyone else!” “I should be over this by now!” 

No you’re not, Yes you are, no they’re not, no you shouldn’t, no you don’t, don’t worry about them, and if you’re not over this by now, then you shouldn’t be over this by now! Whew! 

Mercy! If you weren’t depressed to begin with, you would be if you listened to all these voices running around in your head! Now, I am not advocating that we wear our hearts on our sleeves, or engage in public misery or whining and complaining. (Indeed, there is a time for putting away sadness, and if we are striving to maintain healthy thinking, perhaps with professional help, we’ll recognize it.) But we need to be kind to ourselves. I think holidays are hard for some people because if we are in pain we may feel left in the backwash: “Everyone else is happy, I should be too!” 

First of all that is not true, everyone has heartaches to one degree or another. Second, if a person who had always been such a key ingredient in our happiness is gone, how can we be happy if our heart is broken? But hearts do heal and happiness does return (and can make appearances even in the midst of grief).

For those feeling left in the backwash at Christmas, I would like to remind you that you are not. In fact, you are at the very heart of the matter. Christmas is especially for you. The Light of the World came to us in the midst of a cold, dark, night. He was rejected, He had to sleep in the barn, not to mention be born there. 

The Baby Jesus is the hope of the world who came especially for you in your night of darkness. You need not deny, repress or ignore your pain. Bring it to the Manger. That is what the Manger is for. The Baby there smiles for you. He was born there for you just as he came to die for you, to bring you hope, and bring light to your night of death and grief. Embrace that Baby, who is your saviour, and you will not be left out, but in the heart of the matter, the center of the action. This is the meaning of Christmas. This is the spirit of the season. All of those Christmas hymns and Advent Scripture readings are about you. “The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who have dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown” (Isaiah 9:1)

If we allow the Baby Jesus to do what He came for—penetrate our darkness as we embrace Him, and cradle Him in our arms, we will be living in the heart of Christmas, and even in the midst of suffering, we will know Joy, and have a holy Christmas.