How many people are on the road this Christmas? Perhaps you are one of the millions who will be driving or taking a train, plane or coach. Or maybe you’ll be at home, receiving visitors. Or maybe you’ll be at home, alone.
In the northern hemisphere, our days have reached their shortest, and now, just very gradually, the hours of daylight will lengthen.
When it is the winter sun journeying through the sky, or our own footsteps on the planet, Christmas is a time of movement.
It’s rather appropriate that so many people travel at Christmas, because after all, this is when we remember the travels of a young couple. Even if you’re not a Bible reader, you’ll know all about their journey – surely one of the most famous travel tales of all time.
We are told they reached Bethlehem and the humble corner in which the baby Jesus was born. How strange it must have been. Whether it was a stable or a cave, it doesn’t seem like it was too comfortable. It certainly wasn’t ‘home’.
I wonder if Mary was homesick for her family and usual surroundings. In our travels – actual journeys or virtual travel – how often we are seeking something we might identify as ‘home’. A place of safety, of feeling that we are being held, that we are loved unconditionally. A place of warmth. A good measure of Danish hygge* .
(*Hygge: a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being)
For those who have been bereaved in the past year or perhaps several years, this might be very far from how you are feeling. Grief can make us feel that we are in the cold; that we are distant from ‘home’. We might be strangely disoriented, uncomfortable and alone in the strange, dark, lonely place of our grief.
Others find comfort and warmth in familiar traditions, whether it’s meals, drinks, TV, a church service, friends and family, or the songs of the season. If this is how you feel, I wish you for you continued Christmas blessings.
However this season finds you, I hope you will be able to embrace what brings you some comfort at this time, whatever brings you a sense of ‘home’. Offer a toast to your loved one, perhaps give a gift in their name, and cherish the memories.
And if this time is dark and lovely, try to remember that the sun is on the move.
Things will not stay the same. The days will lengthen; the nights will shorten.
This for me is the essence of Christmas. The light of hope. May it shine for you.
P.S. I don’t want to be trite by offering platitudes about “nights shortening” if you are in the midst of despair. But I sincerely believe that there is hope for all of us. The love we feel for our loved ones continues, but the acute intensity of grief that can make us feel as though we’re losing our minds does change. I’m not always sure how it happens, but it changes. The seasons roll on. Whether you are grieving for your son or daughter, your partner, a parent, a family member, or a beloved friend, please do hold onto hope.