Jim Deeds: Connect and contemplate this Christmas

Have no fear if the stresses and strains of the festive season are getting to you - Jim Deeds has prepared a Christmas survival kit for Faith matters readers...

Feeling the pressure this Christmas? Reach for the survival kit... and consider the real meaning of the season
Feeling the pressure this Christmas? Reach for the survival kit... and consider the real meaning of the season

WELL, it's that time of the year again. The days have got shorter. The lights and the heating are turned on earlier. The toys and food ads are playing on the TV almost as much as Fairytale of New York is playing on the radio. Yes, it's the run up to Christmas.

While for many this is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year, for a lot of us it can be a stressful time full of rushing about and busyness.

So this year, I have put together a Christmas survival kit; just a few things to get us all through safely.

First out of the kit is... Patience. Ah yes, patience. We're all going to need it this year.

Whether it's sitting in our cars for hours trying to get in or out of town or waiting in queues in the shops when we get there, hoping we haven't forgotten our masks, patience is going to be called for this Christmas.

So, turn on the radio or hum a tune. Go to your happy place in your head. Whatever works for you, try to have some more patience as we experience waiting this Christmas time.

Closely related to this first item, the second out of the kit is... Empathy.

Empathy is our ability to see things from someone else's perspective. When we're stressed and rushing around trying to get everything complete for the big day, so is everyone else.

So if you see someone behaving badly this Christmas time, you could maybe take a minute or two and see the situation from their perspective.

Third out of the kit is... Kindness. There's no gift like the gift of giving.

Giving gifts fulfils us as much as or more than receiving gifts. But we don't have to wait until Christmas Day, nor do we have to choose big gifts to make kindness a reality this Christmas.

I'd say that in these coming days leading up to Christmas we'll all be faced with opportunities to be kind to other people. It might be in giving to charity or to someone less well off than ourselves. It might be in giving time to someone who is lonely.

Let's keep our eyes open for these opportunities to spread love through kindness.

Fourthly, we have a double - Endurance and Acceptance. We need to draw on our endurance when unravelling miles and miles of strings of Christmas tree lights and other decorations that have spent the last year in the attic getting impossibly tangled.

Yes, it is a test of our endurance. And then we need the other half of this double - acceptance - when we find (after an hour of unravelling) that our plans have also unravelled because the blinking Christmas tree lights don't blink; in fact they don't light up at all. There's always one bulb blown.

Yes, endurance and acceptance are really called for at Christmas time.

Fifth in the Christmas survival kit is... Gratitude. Yes, why not spend a while this Christmas somewhere quiet (if you can find such a place) and take stock of your life.

You could begin by being thankful for all that you do have, rather than worrying too much about what you don't. You could see all the talents and abilities you have and be grateful for them.

You could bring to mind one person who shows you love or encouragement or support. You could be grateful for them - and you could even share that gratitude with others this Christmas.

Finally out of the survival kit is... Connection. With all that is going on in the world right now, we could easily find our selves in a state of disconnection - disconnected from our selves, those we love and a higher power or purpose in life.

In these final Advent days running up to Christmas why not attend to our need for connection. Seek out quiet time to check in with yourself and care for yourself.

Silence, rest and recreation (literally, 're-creation' time) are important. Seek out others to be in connection with; those you love and those who love you.

Allow that connection to feed you and build you up. Seek out space to contemplate the nature of life and the purpose of existence.

I know this might sound heavy, but Christmas and the promise of the birth of the Christ child invites us into moments of prayer and contemplation. Seeking these out (alone or with trusted others) will lead us to the consolation of knowing the love of God in all creation... and that means you.

So, there we have it. That's my Christmas survival kit. Although, I have to admit, there will also be red wine, mince pies, port and blue cheese in my kit. What would you put in yours?

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