The talk in my counseling room about how to get through the Christmas season already started. You might be amazed (or maybe not) by the number of people who hate the holidays!
Those of us in people helping professions, such as counselors and pastors, simply cannot neglect the reality that for some, the season contains no joy at all! In fact, many churches offer “Blue Christmas” services for this very reason.
So, in the spirit of reminding us of how some people experience this time of year, allow me to share threes themes concerning holiday blues that I hear so often in my counseling practice. I believe this “inside information” may even help inform your Advent and other holiday preaching.
Three reasons some people hate the holidays:
The people who are absent. Grieving the recent loss of loved ones seems more difficult during the holidays. We seem to keenly feel their absence during the Christmas season and feel sad without them. Then there are those for whom, sadly, a holiday actually marks the anniversary of a loss. For them, the holiday always brings bitter along with the sweet.
- The people who are present. Let me be as frank with you as my clients are with me: some people can’t stand their families! The expectation that we get together with family is especially troublesome for them. Hollywood makes comedies about things like this: obnoxious relatives who overstay their welcome, the critical parent, the highly contentious sibling relationship. However, for some, it's reality, not comedy, and brings anticipatory angst and stress throughout the season.
- The pressure to do more, spend more, and be something you are not. Holiday gift shopping on a tight budget, extra events and time pressures, and the expectation that one must be bright and cheery when they don't feel that way at all leave some saying, “Bah, humbug!”
It’s no wonder folks may feel rung out by the time the New Year rings in!
Can a pastor make those kinds of issues disappear? Of course not. However, emotionally intelligent pastors can address the pressures and losses some suffering people experience during this season. In the end, could it be that kind of message – reminding the hurting that the birth of Christ brings reconciliation, true peace and everlasting joy – represents the purest Christmas spirit of all?