Two seconds after Halloween finished the Christmas decorations appeared in my local supermarket. In fact, had I been paying attention I am sure that there were already some Christmas decorations infiltrating the aisles prior to trick-or-treating. The pre-holiday madness has begun; complete this year with pre-Black Friday sales and a maddening array of toys and gifts that will lead to inner bliss. Even with the ridiculous amount of in-your-face consumerism, for most people the holidays are a lively time with family and friends. Obviously for Christians the holidays have the foundational spiritual dimension that in many ways offsets the trivial and excessive elements of this time of year.
However, as we begin to make plans for Thanksgiving and sort out where we will be for Christmas dinner, we also need to remember those in our communities and families for whom the holidays are a difficult time. Whether it is the loss of a loved one through death, separation or divorce, or a struggle with mental illness that is compounded by the intensity of the season, or the simple yet profound feeling of alienation and loneliness that can be a part of a person’s life, the holidays can be a burden to many in our community. Economic struggles compounded by the recession can amplify all of those situations, as well as create new ones.
We as a community of faith need to pay special attention to those who are marginalized in one way or another during these often festive and joyful times. As we make our plans, both in our families and liturgies, now is the time to look around with the eyes of Christ, to see those who need extra time or space. Perhaps it is a liturgy especially for those who are feeling sad this time of year, or perhaps it is helping someone to connect with a group to walk with them in their grief. Perhaps it is just asking someone if this is a difficult time, and offering a cup of hot chocolate and an ear. Look around and see who God has placed in your path, and try to reach out at some time this holiday season.