Christmas is a joyful season. But how is it that Christmas is often tinged with a touch of sadness for many people? It is a time of love and maybe we miss people we love we could not be with at the moment or even anymore. It is a time of hope but we may find ourselves not able to hope and aspire anymore. It is a time of giving and sharing but we may find ourselves not able or willing to give or share. It is a time when the world is at peace but we find ourselves in turmoil because we are not the person we can or should be.
I used to secretly dread Christmas in my early teens because it was around this time that my parents would have one of their big fights, which often left us children sad, quiet and not quite up to celebrating. It is supposed to be a time of love and happiness and yet here we were dealing sadly with the anger and bickering of our parents.
There is a rational explanation for this kind of behavior during the holidays. Psychologists call it Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D. here are some notes from the Mayo Clinic:
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.
Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), medications and psychotherapy.
Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.
Emotions are not bad. We are both rational and emotional beings. Feelings are an essential part of who and what we are. Reason helps us understand the what, who, when, where, and why of things, places, people, and events. But it is our feelings and emotions that drive us to action. Reason may show us the way; but unless we “feel” it, we will not take that path. Reason will lay out the options available to us and their consequences; but it is with the heart that we finally make the decision.
In our evolution, feelings probably antedated cognition. They were essential for our survival more that emotions were. Feelings tell us if things around us are alright. If they are not, we move on or go somewhere else. Feelings tell us if what we are doing in right. If it feels good, it must be right.
In fact, they could be God’s ways of touching our hearts when our minds would not heed his words. Our mind and reason help us understand and figure things out. But our feelings and emotions help us see the presence of God around us. Mary was filled with awe and joy at the first Christmas season. And you know what she did? “She treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
And then like her, we will see God’s finger writing out our life’s story and we can break out into song like the Magnificat for ‘the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”