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The Joy and Stress of Christmas

We live in a Christian society. At this time of the year, the celebration and evidence of Christianity are all about us: in-store decorations; holiday ribbons in windows; festive street lights; and, pervasive carols on the airwaves. We now have changed our daily greetings from, Have a Nice Day, to, Merry Christmas. We may not all agree with the Christmas story, but we all enjoy Christmas.

We like the good feelings it brings in the dark and cold of winter. We like the family get-togethers, the re-affirmation of friendships, the gift exchanging, the sharing of food, the music and the songs.

We thrive on the sense of hope and new life that Christmas brings.

For many, Christmas is a nostalgic time. Christmas may even be a time of depression for some, with a lack of reconciliation to others and events in the past. At times like this, we need a strong sense of Faith. This is a time when we need others to tell us that we are alright, and that the world is right with us.

A timely dollop of secular ministration may also help us recover from this seasonal nostalgia. St. Thomas Aquinas said it best when he wrote: Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath, and a glass of good wine.

The Latin-American ballad we sang this morning, Caminando Voy, also makes a good point. This song is an adaptive folk song open for many interpretations. Various Christian denominations and Unitarians have developed words for this song to suit their own beliefs. Baptists sing of travelling to Canaan and the Promised Land. Pentecostals sing of travelling to Heaven and Salvation. Unitarians sing about a concern for others and travelling a life of service to the full. It is the second hymn in the Unitarian Spanish hymnbook, Las Voces del Camino.

This piece of music lends itself well to a flexible attitude towards religion, and a respect for each other's beliefs. These ideals should be a major part of this Season. We all sing the same melody, but with a diversity of words which reinforce our beliefs. Be glad and rejoice in it.

The `Desiderata' we read together has been a guide in my life since my children were young. In fact, I gave each of them a wall hanging of it when they left home for college. When worldly cares crowd in on you, you, too, may find solace in reading it again.

To further demonstrate this ideal of sharing without judgment, let's play a game I have named `Sweets for the Season'. I have a variety of candy in these baskets to give to you. Choose any five pieces you would like to have, and keep them in your hand. When you have all finished your selections, we will talk about your choices (why you chose what you did, and the significance of that choice to you).

...You chose what you did, because of: flavour, colour, size?
...What is the common element in your choices? Sweetness?
...Are your choices better than your neighbours'?
...Would you criticize or mock your neighbour for his/her choices?

This game is a good metaphor for our choices in religions. We chose the type of candy for different reasons; and, we all have different approaches to faith...and for different reasons.

Sweetness is to candy, what faith is to religion. We crave sweetness; and, we all want to believe in something. No matter how fancily you wrap it up; be it candy or religion.

The common element is that, even though your choice (chocolate over peppermint, red wrapper over blue), may be quite different from my choices, we are not here to judge or criticize our neighbours, but to accept and celebrate each other's choices.

Share with others. Enjoy each other's company. Live in the moment. Accept with Joy that the lengthening daylight will bring to new life on Earth.