I'm writing this on December 21—the start of winter and the shortest day. My congregation is having a "Blue Christmas" service tonight for those who may not experience Christmas this year as a joyful event. There are so many reasons that might be true: illness, business setback, job loss—and in our congregation, two deaths just this week in addition to others in the past few months. This service will be more subdued than the others this weekend.
It's always good to remember that not everyone experiences happiness, joy or feelings of peace and serenity at this time of year. It's a good time to be respectful of where others are in their life journey and what's happening with them.
Just yesterday, in fact, my fiance and I had lunch out. We were served by a woman who has served us many times before. When we asked how she was, she appeared near tears. I asked what was wrong, and she told us how her mother-in-law had just died suddenly. Her husband's mother was an essential part of their family's life and had been expected to pull through the diagnosis she got only two months earlier. Now they were facing a funeral and a huge gap in their lives ... all just days before Christmas.
Stay tuned in to what people are feeling. Pay attention. We cannot assume this time of year is a warm, fuzzy or joyful time for everyone. It's a good time to show compassion and love to all those we meet. Who knows what even a smile can mean to someone you see on the street or in a store?