“Holding and Releasing”
Blue Christmas Reflection:
There is simply so much to hold. In the midst of holidays and festivals and celebrations everything appears to be magnified, larger than life itself. And it is no different with those things that bring us sorrow. These, too, are magnified in our minds and hearts. For all the joy of the holidays and family festivities that are present to lift us up, there seems to be in equal measure a memory or a fear or a loss from long ago at this time of year or something more recent that prevents that joy from rising up within us. There is a tension between our expectations and what is really happening on the ground. We have this sense of what is supposed to be – how we are supposed to feel – what our gatherings are supposed to look like – sound like – based on some imagined story we’ve accepted from times long past or how we think others are experiencing the season. And yet, we just don’t feel it. When we gather it doesn’t look so picture perfect. The tone is off. And so, we wrestle with that push – pull in our hearts and minds.
Sometimes it might seem like we would be better off if we didn’t have to go through this ritual every year. Can’t we just sit this one out?
We are all grieving so much right now. Some have shared their personal experiences of it – anniversaries of deaths haunt us, clouding our view. Our very broken world is weighing heavy on all of us - so much violence and destruction and loss of life, not to mention the impact on our Earth home. And all around us folks are singing about joy and peace and love, about a holy accompaniment for our days, about the coming of light into the darkness. When we are stuck in our grief those things can feel like an afront and we can begin to feel like we should be acting differently. We judge ourselves and a sense of shame can begin to insert itself.
But the truth is that there is no shame in grieving the hard stuff. We would not be human if we didn’t. And we don’t necessarily want to be cheered up. I think we want to be accepted as we are, without having to pretend otherwise. It is nice to simply have our grief acknowledged. It is incredibly loving to honor the reality that someone may not even know what they want or need and to just be available to them. We don’t want to be kept busy or distracted so that we can forget. The only way is through. To be laughed with and cried with. We can embrace our grieving as a guest during this time of the year.
And so, we came together today. We have made space for one another, and we hold one another’s truths; release our own truths, in this space of safety and sacredness made so by our presence here. bell hooks wrote that “the light of love is always in us, no matter how cold the flame. It is always present, waiting for the spark to ignite, waiting for the heart to awaken.” Sharon Salzberg comments that it might not feel like that light of love is always there. But it is an innate capacity, she says. There is power in the coming together of community, where we hold love in such high regard, foundational to who we are.
May we be that presence for each other which warms the heart and spirit, which says, “I see you. I hear you. I love you.”
Rev. Tracy Johnson
UUMH Chatham, December 17, 2023