As December approaches and Covid shows little sign of calming down, the level of concern rises: all those family traditions, grandparents with grandchildren, being with friends… gone? We are right to be concerned, Spring lockdown caused issues for mental health, so Christmas is unlikely to be easy. But before we throw our hands up, it doesn’t have to be horrid.
First we need to understand the power of worry. Worry does not change a thing; focusing on the negative, what we cannot do, the Christmas that we cannot have, will be miserable. We can spend December thinking about all the things we will miss at Christmas; or we can choose to see this year, for one year only, as the opportunity to do things differently: a full-on excuse to try things, do away with what we don’t like, create a new tradition.
Secondly, if we are going to make a difference, we need to plan ahead, it won’t just happen. The very act of planning and thinking about what we can do improves our wellbeing; seeing it happen is then a really healthy experience. (That doesn’t mean we can plan to break the rules! Even if we were to “get away with it” it still leaves us with negative feelings and more importantly puts others at risk.)
If I am the person who is isolated, then it’s important to plan times of leisure like a favourite film, book, computer game; creativity - baking a cake, cooking a meal, embroidery, a colouring book, drawing – doing is what matters, not ‘success’; being physical; learning a skill; perhaps set aside time to do a job that’s been hanging around, or a small part of it; find ways of being sociable - phone or video call, a walk. Think of yourself as a friend whom you know really well; what would you suggesting that they do for Christmas? Imagine yourself in January or five year’s time, what are wishing you had done? Making even small things happen, improves our wellbeing and health.
If you are the person who has people to care for, then planning things to help can make a massive difference. A family told me how they are including their parents by getting a cheap TV and linking it to a tablet, they are now able to sit in the round as the grandchildren open presents, and even sit down together for their Christmas lunch. We’ll include an info sheet about how to do this at www.stjohnsfulham.org. Even if we can’t do the tech, we can still watch the same film, eat at the same time, be on the phone as presents are opened. How about some surprises over the week: treats, challenges, distanced visits and walks together? We can do stuff, but it needs preparation.
For many of us, the issues are real, but solvable. Take a moment to consider those for whom these thoughts would be so unhelpful as to be insulting. Please take some time to look at what difference you can make for the poorest in our society. Christmas FoodBank appeal and Glassdoor Appeal – www.stjohnsfulham.org/events - a small amount of money can make a big difference.
Some of you may be wondering where the “God bit” of all this is. God was there, it’s just that we didn’t notice it. Confused? The story of the birth of Jesus, is that God chose to share so fully in the reality of our world that he would become fully human – to be fully human is to make all life holy, family, leisure, well-being, eating together, hobbies, work, poverty and wealth, suffering and healing they all matter to God – this is dawning reality that Christmas brings. Wherever we find ourselves, Christians believe that we matter so much to God, that Jesus became one with us in the reality of the world that is to bring each and every one of us to a point of healing and wholeness.