The Real Gifts of Christmas

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

December is filled with feelings, and not all of them are happy ones. We’re told it’s the most wonderful time of the year but for most of us it is the most stressful time of year.

Christmas Tree, real gifts of ChristmasAdvertisers create an artificial world of million-dollar homes dripping in pristine winter snow and expensive decorations. Perfect families gather around elegant dinner tables and nobody is sick or unemployed. This is not the stuff dreams are made of; it’s the stuff marketing agencies crank out, hoping we buy into it. 

Christmas comes with high expectations that are difficult to live up to. It’s easy to overload our emotions with pressures of shopping, decorating, entertaining and social obligations, not to mention resolutions for a healthier life style and better balance in the New Year.

Life is just too real to deliver a perfect Christmas. Anxiety, disappointment and loneliness run high in December and feelings of grief and sadness are intensified. In this messy place called the holiday season, take time to appreciate the real gifts of Christmas, the ones that don’t arrive in an Amazon box.

Friends and Family

Christmas is a time for families if you’re blessed to be part of one, and friendships that carry us through the highs and lows of life’s journey. These are the ties that bind us when the world around us gets crazy.

The gift of family and friends enriches us simply by being there; part of who we are.  Holidays are reminders that the enduring comfort of their presence makes all things bearable.

People who take us as we are and embrace us in a circle of unconditional support, acceptance and forgiveness are the season’s best reminders that we are loved. 

Life Purpose

Each of us has purpose and it is a gift to discover what that is. To become the best version of ourselves we must believe we have a reason to be here. Life is a journey that challenges us to grow through adversity, joy, adventure and transformation; living into our gifts.

What on Earth Am I Here For?Sometimes we choose our journey with great clarity, like Ghandi or Mother Theresa, but often the path is chosen for us and we must find the courage to walk it. There are all kinds of theories to explain how we got here, but the question to reflect on is why we are here and how we evolve ourselves.

You can’t just think your purpose, you must live it. Live on purpose. Your head offers the ideas, the rationale and even the objections, but it is your heart that leads you to fulfil them. Passion drives purpose—find what you love and do it well. When you live your purpose you share yourself with the world—and that makes the world a better place.

Hope and Faith

They are not the same thing, but I believe they are connected. You can have one without the other, but together they are powerful gifts. Hope is the possibility that inspires us to have faith. Faith is the substance that keeps hope alive. Hope is forward looking, Faith is in the moment.

faith and hope, clarity, life purposeHope is a feeling we relate to because at some point we have felt hopeless. When life hurts us, hope offers us the possibility of recovery. It carries us when we’ve lost our fight and can’t see a way forward. Finding hope when circumstances make us feel hopeless requires faith that change is possible. Faith stabilizes hope.

It’s easy to be positive when life is steady, but when life throws a curve ball foundations get shaken and emotions get on the roller coaster of doubt and fear. It’s hard to find hope because we don’t remember what it feels like. We have to imagine it. Envisioning the possible outcomes and boldly projecting ourselves into them takes both faith and hope.

Hope shines; even when we are hiding in the darkest of places. Faith gives us the courage to let the light in.

A Meaningful Christmas

Holly and Ivy, Christmas, greens, Seek out the quiet and peaceful places of December and avoid the frenzy. Nature is the perfect antidote to the commercialism and hype of the holidays.

Nature reminds us that life has a beauty and rhythm that is unwavering in its cycles of endings and beginnings. It offers our senses a respite and allows us to step away, if only for a little while, and find meaning in the magnificence of creation.

I wish you a Meaningful Christmas, with the hope that it is indeed Merry and centered in gifts of faith, hope and love.

This entry was posted in Friends and Family, Spiritual, Susanne Skinner and tagged , , , , , , , , by Aline Kaplan. Bookmark the permalink.

About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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