It’s December—the twelfth month of the Gregorian calendar. If you live in the northern hemisphere, Jupiter and Saturn are visible at dusk in the eastern sky, and in the southwest sky, a brilliant Venus soars from excellent to magnificent. On the 21st of this month, the axis of the North Pole points farthest away from the sun, making sunrise appear to be in the south. It’s called the winter solstice.
If you live in the southern hemisphere, as do our friends in Australia and New Zealand, things are reversed, and December 21 is the longest day of the year.
For many people, December is not particularly a good time of the year. They much prefer summer, but it’s more than simply the darkness of the season. There is a spiritual and emotional darkness as well. In December and January, alcohol consumption and suicides increase. While many start celebrating Christmas and shopping centers focus on getting people in the buying mood, those without families often feel that a “blue Christmas” is on the horizon and either try to blank it out or to anesthetize those blues.
Others, though, start feeling the Christmas panic. They are thinking, “It can’t be December. We just got the Christmas decorations stored and our credit card bills paid from last year. How can another Christmas be here?”
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
You can beat the December blues, whether you live in Kirkenes, Norway where this month there is less than an hour of sunlight each day, or Christchurch, New Zealand where the sun shines for eighteen hours a day. Here are five guidelines that will help you.
Guideline #1: Plan ahead. Avoid the last-minute panic. As of today, you plenty of time if you sit down with a calendar and plan your time. Put a master calendar on the refrigerator. Ask the whole family, if you have one, to coordinate with you and list dates and events.
Guideline #2: Put things in perspective. Since you can’t do everything, decide what is important. Generally, the simpler things are, the better. Elaborate decorations are wonderful, but the effort it takes to put together the colossal production usually leaves you tired out and depressed. Go for simplicity and taste.
Guideline #3: Focus on people. If I were single and had no family, instead of sitting at home muttering, “Bah, humbug!” I would ask myself, “Where can I serve and help someone in need?” Call your church or parish and volunteer, or call the local hospital, a mission, an orphanage, or a child-care center. For every lonely person (which may include yourself) there’s another person somewhere who feels just as left out as do you. Reach out and touch somebody. Bake cookies for a shut-in or the neighbor who doesn’t like you. Take grandmother to the Christmas concert.
Guideline #4: Remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. If you have children, make sure that they know that the reality of Christmas focuses on the manger—not the jolly old fellow in the red suit. If you haven’t already gotten your Christmas cards, don’t fall for the nondescript messages that say nothing and offend no one. Makes sure that the message says what you want it to say—that in a dark world, light came through the gift of God’s Son.
Guideline #5: Touch someone who is hurting. In so doing the darkness you feel is driven away, and you walk away knowing that you did something to bring Christmas into another person’s life. Adopt another family this Christmas. Give a year-end gift that would surprise your accountant (and your grandmother). You can beat the December blues and feel better when the New Year rolls around.
Resource reading: Galatians 4:1-7.
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash