The Rev. Arlyn Macdonald

The Christmas season is upon us. Black Friday is behind us and the reds and greens of the Advent season beckon us to move forward into the time of giving and remembering. Every year it seems like folks want the holidays to come just a little earlier. There were holiday decorations in stores and on neighborhood lawns even before Thanksgiving.

I don’t like to shorten the time of gratitude and thanksgiving. We have so much for which to be thankful. I wanted to finish sending out my gratitude cards, finish off the leftovers from that scrumptious dinner, and spend more time being grateful to God for my life, my family and my friends. I wanted to spend every moment I could in gratitude and then turn my thoughts towards Advent and the season of Love and Light.

We lit the first candle of Advent, the candle of Hope, this past Sunday. Hope is an important part of being human. The ability of Hope might be the very thing that distinguishes us as humans. We hope for understanding, for clarity, for a connection with the Divine, so that we may grow and transform. This season of Love and Light helps us to remember that we are People of Hope.

I was impressed with what Melanie Hall wrote in her column two weeks ago in this Religious Section about direction. She said, “God is the direction.” There is no direction we can turn to where God is not present. God is everywhere present, but we don’t always open our eyes to see.

We are always turning toward the Love, Light and Hope of God, but we often forget to turn towards Joy. I believe that Joy is the celebration of the other directions. This is the season of Joy, of singing, of celebrating the birth of the Light into the world. Whichever direction you want to take during this season, you will find joy. All the beloved carols of the season sing of joy, the colorful decorations make our hearts feel joyful, the expectant smiles of the children radiate joy, and the messages of peace bring an inner joy that, perhaps one day, there will be peace on earth and goodwill to all people.

Whether you are celebrating Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, or Christmas, remember to do so with great joy. Let go of the stress of shopping. Cut back on the amount of cookies and holiday treats you just “have to” make. Extend your gratitude by giving to at least one other worthy cause to make someone else’s life more joyful. Spend some time just sitting quietly beside your Christmas tree or other holiday decorations breathing the joy of the season into your heart. And most of all, look in to the eyes of your loved ones, and see the joy of God shining there.

May Love and Hope ignite a new spirit of Joy for you this holiday season and may God send you the Angels of Light with rich blessings of the Spirit and peace on earth.

The Rev. Arlyn Macdonald is the senior minister of the Spiritual Awareness Center, dean of the Spiritual Development Center and author of three books on spiritual development.

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