THIS IS YOUR CHRISTMAS HOPE


GETTING EIGHT GLASSES A DAY

How would you define 2019? Was it the best year of your life? Was it the most difficult?

As I reflect on my own life this past year, I can only conclude that it—like most years—it had its share of both victories and challenges. I both succeeded and failed. For the most part I made myself very proud, but there are things I wish I’d done differently, too. There is always room for improvement.

No year is perfect, but no matter the particulars of our last eleven and a half months, the most important thing in December is not an assessment of the past, but rather the hope we hold for the future.

What can 2020 look like?

With hope all things are endurable. With hope every tomorrow is something that holds promise. Those are themes that I’ve written about again and again, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing about them. Because hope is like water: We simply need it every day to survive; and those of us who ingest more of it on a regular basis are more likely to feel better in the long run.

So no matter how difficult this past year might have been for you, no matter how many times you might have fallen ill or fallen short, please begin thinking of a better new year. Begin thinking of the improvements that might come your way. Begin thinking of goals—both big and small—you might reach for. Begin imagining the little pieces of joy you might experience, and begin thinking of ways in which you will grow and find better health: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Are you picturing those things? Good. Do you feel that renewing sensation coursing through your body, that warm mixture of comfort and anticipation? That sense that “things will be okay”? That sense that “things will even be better?”

That is hope. Drink it in on a regular basis.

THE SPECIFIC HOPE OF CHRISTMAS

With Christmas about a week away, I think that it is important to reflect on what this holiday offers us specifically in the way of hope and peace. And since the response to that reflection is both simple and complex, why not use that communicative middle ground of bullet points? Here are five:

1. Christmas gives us light for the darkness.

Christmas assures us that light and love prevail, that they are the guiding forces both in this larger existence and in our daily lives. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “love conquers all,” and nowhere is that truth more apparent than in the redemptive narrative that begins with a birth in Bethlehem and concludes with an execution and resurrection. This arc of Jesus’ life shows us not only that God the Father loves us enough to keep planning ways to be with us forever, but it shows us that such love—personified in the person of Jesus Christ—truly conquers the dark recesses of our human experience and the darkest fears that we all harbor. We are loved, and that love is a light that can warm our every day. There is no cold corner of our experience that it can’t penetrate. Let the light in today!

2. Christmas gives us miracles, and ultimately everyone is hoping for a miracle or two in their life.

A virgin birth? The resurrection of the dead? The healing of the blind and the lame? Jesus’ life is all about miracles; it is all about showing us things that we often have a difficult time seeing through the callouses of earthly pain. So this December, don’t allow the grime and stress of this earth to cloud your vision into a literal “blah.” Instead, get in touch with the supernatural. Look to the stars and “make your wishes.”

Say your prayers, and believe in answers. Use this Christmas season to renew your faith in miracles.

3. Christmas takes away our guilt and regret.

If you’re anything like me, then you might know a thing or two about occasionally feeling overwhelmed by guilt. (By the way, were you raised Catholic? Lutheran maybe?) Regardless, feelings of guilt and regret are a part of the human experience for all except the psychopathic among us. We’ve all failed ourselves and our loved ones at times, and we’ve all felt a certain distance between ourselves and the Divine because of those failings. But Christmas is about erasing that distance. It is about saying, “Guess what, the past is forgotten and you’re good enough for God. He loves you, and He forgives everything that might be bothering you, so feel joy! Feel liberated!

Why don’t we all let the joy and freedom of that forgiveness really change our lives in 2020! Let’s allow it to bring greater self-love into our lives. Because if God loves us enough to plot the “Christmas story” for the sake of our souls, then we ought to love ourselves a lot, too.

Whenever you see a Christmas tree this December, please think, “God loves me, and if He loves me, then I must be okay! If He is loving me and protecting me and planning for me, then everything else is manageable.”

4. Christmas gives us hope for a joyful existence after this world is done.

Christmas gives us hope for the afterlife, which assuages our greatest fear, the fear of death. I don’t care what anyone says, we’ve all felt afraid of death at one time or another. Even those of us who claim faith, if we are being honest, have those fears to grapple with from time to time.

And whether people claim faith or not, no one wants their existence to end. I don’t truly believe that even the staunchest of atheists out there wishes for death to simply be “a long, black nothingness.” We’d all like more time, right?We’d all like a joyful, pain-free existence in the presence of God, right? We’d all like to know that there is some cosmic meaning to our time spent here: to know that all of our pain, all of our love, all of our struggle and efforts at self-improvement and spiritual growth carry over into something greater. Christmas gives us that carry-over. It gives continuity to existence by connecting our life here to the eternal hereafter.

Christmas gives us the ultimate hope, the hope that there is Divine continuity to everything we do. The hope that our pain here pales in comparison to the beauty and bliss that awaits us afterward. Life here is beautiful and important, but it is just a grain of sand on a much larger beach, and that beach exudes beauty beyond our current comprehension.

5. Christmas gives us a simple joy that we can embrace in all circumstances.

Probably the greatest truth I’ve so far realized in my adult life is that true wisdom, joy, and health often reside in simplicity. As someone who’s prone to overthinking, I’ve come to realize the power of shutting the mind up and focusing on simple truths, thoughts, and actions that bring peace to the heart.

The world tells us lies. It tells us that we are all a bunch of “disorders” that need to be fixed. It tells us that our health is worth sacrificing for jobs and expectations and hollow thrills. It tells us that the praise of strangers is more important than making ourselves and our families and our God proud.

Lies.

The world tells us that faith is a sign of weakness, when it is in fact it is a great sign of strength.

The world tells us that we have to accomplish, accomplish, accomplish to be worthy. It tells us that we have to embrace noise and complexity at every turn in order to “face the truth and find the truth.”

But Christmas tells us the opposite. It tells us that the ultimate answers to our problems might reside in simplicity. And in faith—in childlike faith. Christmas tells us that the answer to the world’s problems might indeed reside in a filthy stable somewhere in the Israeli countryside.

Christmas tells us that we don’t need to do anything special to be loved and redeemed. It tells us that peace is available to us, even today—even in the midst of any problems we might be experiencing.

Blessed are the downtrodden and the meek and those who need a miracle. Blessed are those who love their families and find riches in laughter and friendship and spiritual connection. Blessed are those who see their bodies and minds as miracles from God and try to care for them appropriately.

Blessed are those who stop believing that their own intellect will save them.

Blessed are those who seek God and say prayers and give thanks each day.

Blessed is faith.

Blessed is simplicity.

Please know that you are Divinely cared for today, and please remember that because of Christmas you can have great hope for tomorrow, for next year, and for eternity. And while experiencing such ever-present and eternal spiritual peace stuff might sound complicated, it is simpler than we often make it out to be.

It is my sincere desire that, even in the midst of any Christmas stress, you will embrace hope and simple joy this holiday season. And I will try to do the same. Please have a very blessed Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Sincerely,

Michael

Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.

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