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Feeling and healing your Christmas memories

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Excitement of gifts under the tree, beautiful liturgies, magical store displays and the movie classics that show up year after year. PHOTO: UNSPLASH

Most of us have lovely memories of Christmas from our childhood: the excitement of gifts under the tree, beautiful liturgies, magical store displays and the movie classics that show up year after year.

Francine remembers mellow uncles crooning carols while the women bustled in the kitchen, tables laden with food, and sun-kissed cousins frolicking in the pool—a classic Australian Christmas.

Byron spent five years in London and New York, so his childhood memories are a combination of southern and northern traditions—a mix of snow and sunburn, of small family gatherings and extended family extravaganzas.

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How blest we are to have this bank of life-affirming memories to enrich us! We can look back with gratitude and forward with joyful anticipation to Christmas and all that it entails.
Yet for many, Christmas does not evoke happy nostalgia, but is a painful reminder of loss, deprivation, or absence. Surrounded by a world in determined celebration, theirs is a private sorrow, all the more painful because of its aloneness.

How can we bring all of this—our joy and sorrow, our gratitude and longing—to our worship this Christmas season?

In our various marriage courses and events, one of the most impactful topics we address is an examination of our family of origin. It is in our family relationships that we first encounter love—and experience its imperfections and limitations.

These early encounters with caregivers and siblings set the foundation for our future attachment strengths and vulnerabilities. When our attachment needs are consistently met, we become adults capable of mature and reciprocal intimacy in our adult life.

If those attachment needs are not met, or only inconsistently met, the resulting emotional wounds can stagnate our growth and predispose us to unhealthy relationship patterns in the future.

Like a homing pigeon seeking its base, our attachment wounds and childhood frustrations are constantly seeking resolution and healing. Without active management, our neediness can grip our loved ones in a stranglehold, suffocating the life out of our relationships.
None of us want to do that, so what’s a healthy and effective way to address this very real need?

The first step is to be aware of our need, to define it by describing it. That can be a painful experience as it often leads us into tender memories and arouses vulnerable emotions.
Which is why we need to bring God very consciously into our journey. In truth, God is already present in every moment of every day of our lives, but we often live dissociated from that reality.

Advent and Christmas are perfect seasons for prayerful reflection on our childhood wounds. North or South, both hemispheres grace us with a few days holiday, allowing a slower schedule, where God’s presence can more readily penetrate our awareness.

So take some time—an extended, unhurried breather—to contemplate the nativity. Whether it be an image on a Christmas card, a home nativity display or one in a local church, use the visual aid to hang out with the Holy Family (Luke 2:1-38).

Let the wonder of this event in history sink in. And let the light of the Bethlehem star illuminate God’s presence in your life and his desire to heal it.

With Mary and Joseph, we entrust our lives to Him. With the shepherds, we give our worship and humility. With the Magi, we surrender our pain, loneliness, fear and sorrow.

And with the choirs of angels, we give our praise: “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”

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