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Heard Around Town

posted Dec 14, 2018, 12:56 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Advent blessings of hope and peace to you!


Snippets of conversation heard around Middletown, NJ:


“I don’t understand why everything is such a big production during Christmas. It stresses me out.”


“I have too many parties to go to. I don’t have time for all of them! I’ll never get everything done this way.”


“I’m annoyed that I feel obligated to buy presents just because everyone says I have to.”


“It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me this year. I’ve been too busy at work to appreciate it.”


In many of my travels around town, whether it be at the grocery store, the post office, or a restaurant, this is what I’ve been hearing from people. As I was listening to these bits of conversation, it gave me pause. Certainly during the holidays, some people struggle with mental health, loss of a family member, addiction issues, and/or loneliness. This time is difficult for many reasons and those feelings should be honored as we hold closely those who feel alienated in this season. 


But loneliness was not necessarily what I was hearing around the community. I heard frustration. People seemed to be frazzled, if not also a bit weary, as they have internalized the frenetic pace of our consumer culture. What I heard in their words, and in their voices, is they felt they must perform what everyone else thinks Christmas should be in order to be socially acceptable, or even relevant. The “season of good cheer” seems anything but cheerful for some folks. It’s more like the season of run yourself ragged because everyone else is doing it. And I’ll admit, I may have uttered some of the above statements during Christmases past.


The other day, though, one of our church members wrote something to me when I inquired as to how she was feeling. And her response gave me hope, and a whole lot of joy. She said, Actually, I’m feeling good. I seem to be very content with this holiday time. There’s no rushing and I’m not worried about what gets done or what doesn’t get done. We plan to just relax and enjoy the family being together.


When I responded that her feelings are what I think the focus of Advent and Christmas really should be, she replied, That’s what I keep thinking . . . the birth of Jesus and all the joy it brings.


A different conversation here. Feeling content. Feeling joy.


Beloved, I encourage you to give thanks for the hope and peace God is sending into the world. Like a mother experiencing birth pangs, all of creation groans with expectation, waiting for the birth of love that gives us good news of great joy. Let us look forward to this birth, sharing in the songs of angels and the gladness of shepherds. Wait, be still, let go of all those obligations that say we must do, be, buy, rush, and get ready to receive the greatest gift of all — God’s pure and unconditional Love. Joy to the world, the Lord is coming soon!


With joy for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish


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