Observe Advent this Christmas by Observing the Feelings of Others

Christmas Salem 2010
Christmastime in Salem, MA 2010

Christmas is nearly on us – or perhaps it has already overtaken us – depending on the pressure and/or the amount of work the season has for you. Advent is celebrated by some of us, and it has been with us for a couple weeks. Typically, we do not use the word “celebrate” is respect to Advent in the same way we do with Christmas. Instead we tend to “observe” Advent.

The season of Christmas is filled with happiness and family celebration for many people. For others it is filled with tension. Strangely, it may be the same root source that creates both celebration and dread: anticipation. The anticipation of holiday gatherings brings the hope of family reunion, and the fun of gift opening. This same anticipation is haunted by strained relationships, and the fear of falling short in the giving/receiving department – especially for those of us who live on the edge of meeting our monthly needs.

For others anticipation has been flattened by past tragedies and betrayals. Like Scrooge, we find the upcoming days filled with the Ghosts of Christmas Past. But few of the memories are happy memories; instead they are sorrowful reminders.

How we meet the season is unique for each of us. Most of us are filled with a complex blend of positive and negative anticipation, or flattened hopes. This season, give a gift of sensitive caring. Watch how your friends, your family, and perhaps most importantly – those almost invisible people you pass each day, who appear to blend into the white hallways or grimy streets. Look into their eyes, and see if you can tell what kind of Christmas they are celebrating: Is it one of dread, or one of joy? If you can read the subtle indicators, it will help you to speak, or perhaps just listen, to people in an understanding way. This is the gift of sensitive caring. It doesn’t cost you anything, except a little time. Sensitively observing the feelings of others in this season may be one of the best ways to “observe” Advent.

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