by Janine Schenone on December 10, 2020
Professional ministers of the Gospel are trained to be sensitive to those who grieve around the holidays. People often experience deep sadness around Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's Day for a couple of reasons: either they lost a loved one in the season, or their experience of family, love, and companionship is so different from the Hallmark version of family gatherings that they feel loss and loneliness rather than connection and joy on the big days.
For me, Advent and Christmas are rarely sad, and more typically full of excitement and creative ideas and fun outings, such as going out to look at Christmas/Hanukkah decorations on famously decorated streets.
But then there's December 10. I always have to get over the hump of December 10. On December 10, 1979, which was my brother's sixteenth birthday, I called home from my high school classroom, and I was told that my mother was at the hospital. After a four-year battle with scleroderma, my mother had died. The whole family was supposed to gather for dinner that night to celebrate my brother's sixteenth birthday, and my mother has been out shopping for a birthday gift for him when she collapsed.
And then 23 years later, that brother died of the same disease. So I always have to get over December 10. On December 10, I understand why some people find Christmas so hard, why they avoid cheery Christmas movies and prefer "Blue Christmas" services to the joyful Christmas Carols at regular Christmas services.
Music is one of the ways I make December merry. On December 10, I always recall my mother sitting in the living room, listening repeatedly to Handel's Messiah--both the Christmas and Easter portions. Most of the texts come from the book of Isaiah, including this favorite of my mom:
I know that my Redeemer liveth
And that he shall stand
At the latter day, upon the earth.
I think she was contemplating the next stage of her life. I do not listen to the Messiah on Dec. 10, but I do listen to it on Christmas Day, and it brings me joy then. I listen to cheery music, watch funny movies, and make Christmas cookies on Dec. 10. I make merry happen.
We're doing our best at Good Sam to make the season merry for you, too, and our Christmas Sing-Along on Dec. 13 is a big part of that. Our music director, Julie Marner, has chosen a selection of crowd pleasers that are meant to lift our spirits. Information about that is below. However, if you are struggling with sad memories and need an offering that acknowledges that, you'll find information below about Washington National Cathedral's "Blue Christmas," which is meant to soothe troubled minds and spirits.
And now, I'm going to watch a funny movie.