Awakening the Inner Spirit of Christmas
The holidays bombard us relentlessly with advertising, music and decorations. It seems like everyone in the world is having a good timewhile we are overwhelmed with loneliness and despair. With such a profound yearning for our loved one in our hearts, we simply want to hide or run the other way until it’s all over.
But what if we could approach the holidays anew, at least in part? What if we could find a way to celebrate Christmas in a way that strengthens us and our faith, in a way that draws us closer to God? What if we could turn at least some of our attention away from our loss and the outer busyness of Christmas and focus more on the deeper, inner spirit of Christmas?
Below are some of the ways that people have found to create Christmas anew during their time of sadness and loss. I pray that these ideas will encourage you, too, to find a new and deeper sense of meaning and joy within your upcoming holidays.
Even as your human heart aches, setaside some time each day and/or evening this Christmastime to turn your thoughts within, to spend some time with God as you anticipate the birth of Christ within the core of your heart.
If you are grieving the death or illness or separation from someone you dearly love, know that your love is the closest you can come to experiencing the everlasting, divine love that God has for you and that He shares with you through Christ. So at Christmastime, acknowledge and honor your greatest human loveas that which prepares you for the birth of the greatest spiritual Lovein your life, Jesus Christ.
The following are some simple suggestions for how you may bring the true spirit of Christmas to life this year. Use them as they are or as a springboard for your own ideas:
A Sacred Space: create a special place in your home – a room, a corner, a tabletop – that will allow you to acknowledge the deeper meaning of Christmas for you. Place items in this area that will call forth the love you share with the one you’re grieving as well as remind you of Christ being born anew in your heart:
Photos & Memorabilia– a special photo of your loved one and other meaningful items, such as a wedding ring, cross, rosary beads, etc.
A Special Candle– lighting a candle each day during Advent can be a powerful means of (1) celebrating the life you shared with your loved one and the spiritual relationship that you two now share, and (2) acknowledging the light of Christ growing within you. [see further info about advent candles at end of this post]
Flowers– paperwhites and amaryllises, known for their ability to bloom bloom indoors during the winter months, are classic holiday flowers that display the spirit of Christmas. As they grow in your special place, they will be a beautiful symbol of the emergence and flowering of Christ within. [see directions for “Growing Paperwhite & Amaryllis Bulbs”at end of this post]
A Nativity– create a small manger in which the Christ child can be born on Christmas morning. Each day during Advent, after lighting your candle, recall a memorable time in your relationship with your loved one, then take a small amount of hay as a symbol of that loving memory, and lay it in the manger.
On Christmas morning, when you place the Baby Jesus in the cradle, it will be
filled with the love that you and your loved one share. In other words, the love that you
share will create the place for Christ to be born anew in your life. [see “Preparing the
Way” at end of this post]
A Special Christmas Tree– keep it small and special, if you like, and decorate it with things that were meaningful to the two of you.
Prayer and Contemplation: as you contemplate the true meaning of Christmas each day, read scripture and/or a devotional, and PRAY!
Healing Music: create a playlist of sacred music to play during the holidays – music that touches your heart in a positive way and allows you to feel your spiritual connection – at peace and with a deep, inner joy.
THE ADVENT CANDLE
Advent is a hopeful season of preparation that anticipates the birth of Christ. The light of the Advent candle reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world, and that He comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. The progressive lighting of the candle each day symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience, as the darkness of our fear and hopelessness recede. Over the four-week period, as more and more light is shed into the world, our hearts and minds are made ready for the birth of Christ into our lives.
An Advent candle is marked with the days of December 1st through December 25th.
Each day, light the candle and allow it to burn down to the mark for that day. During this time, celebrate the life you shared with your loved one, contemplate the true meaning of Christmas for you, read scripture or a devotional, and pray.
[Google “advent candle” under the shopping tab to find the one you like. They range from $4 to $15.]
GROWING PAPERWHITE & AMARYLLIS BULBS
Use a shallow dish, bowl or bulb vase and fill it three-quarters full of gravel, pebbles or glass beads – make sure to rinse the filler beforehand.
Place the bulbs in the filler root side down and add more gravel between the bulbs to anchor them in place.
Fill the container with water to the bottom of the bulbs and place them in a well lit room; window sills are a great location.
If growing paperwhites and amaryllises from a bulb, they take 4-6 weeks to bloom
While maintaining your flowers, the most important thing is to never let them dry out. Whether you are tending to them indoors or outdoors, they need to stay fully hydrated in order to thrive.
PREPARING THE WAY
Find a small figurine of the baby Jesus and a crib, into which you can place straw, such as this:
Each day, as you add a small amount of hay, symbolizing the love you shared, you will be creating a bed of love for the Christ Child. By Christmas morning, when you place the Baby Jesus in the cradle, it will be filled with the love that you and your loved one share.