The Days AFTER Christmas


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The scene is an alpine village in Washington State. The mountains above us are hidden in fog, the snow-covered trees bend under the weight of new, wet snow. There is deep silence, everything is serene, as if an undeserved peace had descended upon it.

This day is no different than any other day, really. Each day offers us the opportunity to try to live out the promises and the hopes of a new day. And each day, no matter where we live, throughout every season, is God’s pure gift to us. God’s gift of grace is free, generous, and whole. It is up to us to see it, to accept it, and to do what God wants us to do with it.

Some days don’t feel like gifts to us. We may be suffering from the effects of poverty, or burdened by some serious illness, or by the weight of some depression arising from the experience of some terrible loss. It is hard for us to see the gift when the world seems dark and painful to us. But God is always by our side on the days that are full of brightness and beauty, as well as on the days that are full of darkness and fear. Indeed, He is even closer to us in our suffering. He knows the burden and terror of human suffering because He took our suffering upon himself in Jesus. But when we are in the midst of our pain, we are often blinded to that reality.

What we need is the habit of rising each day, the good days and the bad days, acknowledging God’s presence and His attentive will to walk with us. We must practice giving thanks to Him for all the undeserved good gifts that come our way. He wishes to heal our deepest wounds, to relieve our greatest fears, and to strengthen us where we are weak, especially when we find ourselves overwhelmed by life’s vagaries.

Even our darkest days can be brightened, if only for a moment, through our prayers. When we compose ourselves in our suffering, even for just a few moments, and place ourselves in the healing, infinitely compassionate presence of God, His peace can be ours.

How do we do this when our physical pains, or our depression seem to overpower us? It is not easy, of course, but it can be done. It is a matter of both habit and attitude. Attitude is everything. And attitude is a choice. I am never at the whim of any created thing’s power, unless I choose to be. We are free. We are free in the freedom that God gives, an infinite freedom.

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If we believe that God made us free, and that He is always with us, what prevents us from recognizing and accepting that? What keeps us from leaning into that freedom and presence with all of our heart, mind, body and soul? After all, it is not a matter of “If” it is true, but that it IS true.

If you are suffering, If physical pain, or emotional pain seem to have you by the scruff of your neck, try to turn your mind and your soul toward God in that moment. Better yet, if you can, recognize somebody else’s suffering, and say some simple prayers for that person. Or reach out to that person with your own understanding and listening presence, and be with them in their suffering. You might find, in doing these things, that your own burden has been lightened just a bit.

This is what the birth of Christ is all about. Christ came to suffer with and for us, and to show us the Way. He came to show us that suffering has meaning, even though the meaning is often mysterious and seemingly beyond us. By joining our suffering to that of Jesus, by offering it up, even if only briefly, we give it holy meaning, purpose and effect. There will be grace in it, certainly for the one for whom we pray, or serve, but for ourselves too. God will not let our suffering go unrewarded.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.