The “Happiest” Time of Year

Nov 23, 2023

-by Deacon Jessica Noonan (she/her), Associate Director of LEAD

As we roll into the “happiest time of the year” – Thanksgiving meals, Christmas lights, hot cocoa, family activities, presents, and all the things – there are many for whom the holiday festivities are not joyful. Some of my own favorite family traditions are connected to hectic times of year. Every December, my kids and I spend a whole day baking Christmas cookies, that we ONLY make at Christmas, while watching Christmas movies in our pajamas. It’s a special day full of years of memories. And a few days before Christmas bundling up the whole fam with blankets, hot cocoa and candy canes to drive around the surrounding neighborhoods peering at the festive Christmas light displays.

This time from Thanksgiving to Christmas isn’t as joyful for everyone. Recent conversations I have heard around this holiday include stressors of: managing expectations of family and friends; having enough money to buy presents; missing loved ones who won’t be at the table this year. The list goes on. How can we manage this stress within us?

As a people of faith, we are told to look to God in difficult times. Stay strong in your faith. Easier said than done, right? What gives me hope is when I consider the people whose stories have been captured in the Old(er) and New Testament. In large part these folks are a hot mess. Have you read the Bible lately? They run away from God (Jonah), they question God (Moses, almost every prophet, the disciples), they kill their siblings (Cain), they trick and lie to others (David, Zacchaeus, Peter). The Bible is full of complex, imperfect people dealing with a variety of life situations. Yet, God continues to work through them in the midst of the chaos of their lives and awful decision-making skills. God is also working through the messiness of your life too.

One spiritual practice I have found helpful in a variety of situations, even the holidays, is the breath prayer. You can do this practice in several different ways, but this is how I use it as a focusing and calming prayer in the midst of chaos:

Step 1: Choose a Bible verse that brings you comfort. One of my favorites for this prayer is Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Step 2: Find a quiet space – nearby park, back patio, car, closet, bathroom.

Step 3: Take 1-2 minutes taking slow, deep breaths.

Step 4: As you slow your breathing and your mind, focus in on the Bible verse. Breathe in as you hear the first part in your mind (ex: “Be still”) and then breathe out as you hear the second part in your mind (“know that I am God). Repeat this for a few minutes only focusing on the words and pushing out any other thoughts.

You can take this spiritual practice wherever you go and use it in all types of situations. Maybe you will get the chance to teach it to someone else along the way, someone who this might not be the happiest time of year for.