Besides trying to stay ahead of the coastal flooding and the high winds today, I also witnessed the official beginning of the Holiday Crazies.
The husband of one patient pulled out a gun while the CNA was there. The wife of another patient thought that if she could just get her dying husband to the hospital for another dialysis treatment, he'd "snap out of it" and "be okay". She didn't want me to come for a visit because "that will send a message to God that I've given up and I haven't". I didn't go to see him. He didn't go to dialysis. He died 45 minutes later. So much for the efficacy of "magic thinking".
Another patient and her daughter had a huge argument and her daughter threatened to throw her out of the house. Because, you know, it's just a few weeks away from Christmas and she's dying. Then, there was the patient who is actively dying and her caregiver called to ask if I would come over because her nieces and nephews were at the house, fighting over her jewelry, so they would have some "awesome presents to give away".
And, finally, at the end of the day, another of my patients died, at the age of 58, leaving her 10 adult children - from three different husbands - and their various children and significant others in an old Victorian house with no central heat and falling down walls to continue their long tradition of fighting with each other over the crumbs that their mother had left them.
Please don't talk to me about "Holly Jolly Christmas" or having a "Merry Little Christmas". I'm convinced it's part of what gives us the "Holiday Crazies".
I have come to know that when I concentrate, instead, on the spiritual discipline of JOY, then my "Christmas Spirit" is just fine, thank you very much, no matter what else is going on in my life.
So, allow me to pass along some of my thoughts on the subject, which you are free to consider and adapt for your own personal use. Admittedly, it's my own "magical thinking,' but it works for me. I hope it might work for you.
Joy, I think, is different from happiness, or being merry. Happiness and merriment are human emotion. Joy, I think, is a state of spiritual being.
Joy requires the spiritual discipline of contemplation. It demands that I change my perspective - stop looking at my life and the world in the same way. It also asks that I consider the gifts God has given me. Well, okay, yes, it is about "counting your blessings, naming them one by one." But, it's deeper than that. Much deeper.
God knows what it is like to be human because God was once human.
God knows what it's like to have loved and lost.
God knows what it's like to have been betrayed.
God knows what it's like to grieve a loss.
God knows what it's like to suffer.
God knows what it's like to be alone and scared.
God knows what it's like to hunger and thirst.
Because God was in Jesus and Jesus was in God.
God is with us always.
When we focus on the spiritual gifts we receive because of the Incarnation, we may feel lonely but are never alone.
We may, in fact, be sad, but, oddly enough, we will know joy.
We may be acutely aware of our losses, our emptiness, but we'll be "filled with good things".
We may not understand why things happened, but we will be able to "hold them all in our heart".
We may feel weak and vulnerable but we will also know that the strong arm of God is always there to defend and protect us.
We may fear rejection or betrayal, but we will also find unconditional acceptance and love.
We may feel approaching despair, but we will also know that hope is never far from us. It is as close as our next breath, if we are intentional.
It takes discipline, spiritual discipline, to hold these feelings and emotions in tension with the gifts we receive in the Incarnation.
But, when Christmas morning comes and you sing, "Joy to the World," you will sing it from a place of truth in you.
Because, as the rest of the words go, "... the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King."
Joy can be found in that place where heaven and earth meet and sing and rejoice.
The magic of Christmas will be that you may, in fact, feel sad in your heart, but you will feel joy in your soul.
Because the real miracle of Christmas is the Incarnation. Emmanuel. God with us. For us. In us.
At least, that's what works for me.
And, God knows, I needed some Christmas joy today.