Even the turkey soup is now gone. Leftovers are giving way to salads and attempts to feel healthier again. We celebrated the birth of God taking human form while surviving a world threatening to draw us back into the oh-so-human chaos of gift-giving, holiday travel and family visits.
It was a time when, for many, the peaceful and sacred theme of O Holy Night was, at best, more truthfully understood through Jiminy Cricket’s wise refrain: “although your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing…”
We loved the sparkling lights and wonderful holiday scenes of family, worthy of Currier and Ives. It is the time of year we want to feel most holy, and yet, the very joy we seek can bring on the grieving of dreams that have not come true. The relationship that ended; the dread of facing family, who have let us down or whom we have let down; the job we didn’t get; the child still suffering from addiction, the fact there were more bills than money and the kids were expecting Santa to deliver what their parents tried to explain they could not: these worldly realities proved difficult to just “put aside for the sake of the holiday.”
Now…now we are in the tradition time for New Year’s resolutions or for keeping the resolves the experiences of the previous year demand. “A dream is a wish your heart makes.” But what for those who have forgotten how to dream? What when one can barely resolve to get out of bed in the morning? What if the season of good will toward all men has opened old wounds or created new ones?
Ephesians 4:30 speaks of being careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit. When we are going through difficulties or made to face issues and complications at what is supposed to be a time of exciting new beginnings and dreams about to come true, an overwhelming sense of aloneness can take over. We question: why are we not feeling it?
Is it possible that what grieves the Holy Spirit within us is also what causes the sadness buried deep within our flesh? Ephesians 4:31 points to possible causes with the advice to “let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (Brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind).
Wow! What an order! Particularly difficult it we go into the New Year, angry with our Father.
How do we “put aside” the fears and possible resentments we experience when the holidays have been challenging and lean into the light and hope of the upcoming year? We are not called to simply put these things aside. With grace and mercy we are offered a way out in the very next verse. “…become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another (readily and freely), as God in Christ forgave you.” There is no better time than a new year to embrace this advice.
“If you keep on believing…” Ah, Jiminy had it right all along. When our spirit; the Holy Spirit within us: is grieved the best response is to call on that faith of our hearts, greater than any grief we might feel. Through Isaiah 55:8 God tells us “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
“Even though your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” Is it possible? Dare we hope that this just might be the year we repair relationships, that our prayers for our children are answered in “ways higher” than we can even conceive? Can we believe that our God-given talents can be used to serve him? Will we be happy?
Might the hopeful advice of Jiminy, that which allowed the wooden puppet to become a real live boy, be based on scripture, we wonder. Consider Psalms 37:4-6:
Delight yourself in the Lord,
And He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
Trust in Him also and He will do it.
He will make your righteousness [your pursuit of right standing with God] like the light,
And your judgment like [the shining of] the noonday [sun].
Our dreams meet with the reality of a loving guide gifted us throughout the year by the Father through the Son. Can we but resolve to listen?