By Valerie Minard
Soon the pumpkins, haystacks and scarecrows of Halloween will give way to wreaths, ornaments, and elaborate displays as we approach Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. For some, these decorations charge the air with excitement — bringing back memories of family gatherings, presents, parties, traveling, and fun vacations.
However, for many others the holidays can be stressful or depressing. The added responsibilities of preparing for guests on top of an already full routine can seem too much. The temptation to overindulge can be strong, whether it’s spending, eating, or consuming alcohol. It also can be a lonely time for those who have lost a loved one or are without family or a significant other.
Advice abounds for how to escape the holiday blues — getting more sunlight, working out at the gym, volunteering, reaching out to others, and learning to say “no” to extra activities. As wise as these ideas may be, they don’t get to the bottom of the emptiness many people feel during this season.
Looking to people or circumstances for joy or happiness is unreliable and can be disappointing. But take heart. There is another place to look — to divine Love which does not abandon anyone.
The Psalmist, King David, said, “For thou (God) wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
Despite the many trials and tribulations David experienced, he found comfort knowing that divine Love was with him and would take him through whatever valley of darkness he was going through. This brought him peace and a full sense of joy, which he maintained by being grateful and praising God. Praise and gratitude to God in prayer is a way of feeling closer to divine Love. We can pray for assurance, courage, safety, guidance, strength, comfort and joy — and then thank God for supplying them!
Mary Baker Eddy is an author who’s given me much insight on effective prayer. She saw prayer not as pleading with God for something, but as understanding and living according to God’s laws of good — a system she called Christian Science. This was no abstract theory to her. In her early life, she faced widowhood, divorce, homelessness, betrayal, poverty and loneliness. Yet after much spiritual searching, prayer and growth, she gained a new sense of joy, specifically regarding Christmas. Instead of feeling forlorn, she grew to love the holiday. She wrote, “I love to observe Christmas in quietude, humility, benevolence, charity, letting good will towards man, eloquent silence, prayer, and praise express my conception of Truth’s appearing.”
So if you are feeling adrift and forsaken, be assured Love is by your side. Giving gratitude and praise to the source of all good can re-establish your connection to divine Love by opening your eyes to the good already present. Acknowledging God, rather than a person, place, or thing as the source of happiness and peace, can bring a more secure feeling of joy that’s independent of material circumstances. This kind of joy, flowing from a recognition of divine Love’s presence, brings a grace that can carry us through busy schedules and dissolve the tendencies to overindulge or overspend. It also can smooth out the smarts and indignities that may arise during family gatherings. Since joy and self-worth are established in the divine Love of God, no one can take them away. Love impels us to forget ourselves in expressing love to others.
Rather than being anxious as the holidays approach, see them as an opportunity to express love, joy, and gratitude. And don’t be surprised if you find that your greatest gift of the season is your spiritual growth!
Valerie Minard writes regularly on the connection between consciousness, spirituality, and health. She is a Christian Science practitioner and the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in New Jersey. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @valerieminard.