I have always thought it interesting that places of worship see increased attendance during holidays. Do people suddenly “get religious”? I don’t think so. But people obviously see a value in making time to be present at these gatherings.
For some it is simply tradition. In some fashion it connects us to our history, our culture, family, and childhood. It has no more meaning than that – perhaps a vague hope that there is something bigger than us controlling things. But for others, there is a deeper significance, specifically spiritual. It signifies that there is a semblance of stability in the world and it gives them comfort to know that God is watching over them. And then of course, there are the devout, always in attendance (most of the readers of this blog).
Regardless of where you might fall in the spectrum of belief, one thing stands out: rituals add value to our lives. They build a sense of connectedness with others and therefore we feel less alone. I think that is why there is an increase in joy for so many of us during the Christmas season. We are reminded that we are part of something greater than just our individual journeys as we celebrate together.
For some, this time of the year reminds us of losses past and present – but even in the midst of the sadness there is opportunity to form new bonds as a way of moving beyond the grief. If we intentionally do not isolate, but remain open to the community around us, this season in particular offers more prospects for connection. People are more likely to gather, to invite, to notice us as they turn their attention outwards. Although we may not always feel like participating, our willingness to both initiate and respond opens up possibilities.
2000 years ago God initiated in a way that has changed the course of humanity forever – and wise people are still responding. It is our joy that we are a part of that response, and our prayers are for all the broken people, just like us, past, present and future that join to celebrate His birth. Merry Christmas!