Creating Space for Christmas by Gord Alton

I write this letter to encourage Stouffville residents to reflect upon their experience of Christmas. Are you happy with it? I ask this question because, each year, I struggle to practice my beliefs and values around Christmas.

For me, Christmas is a time when I strive to practice love, love to others, love to myself, and love to God. However, during the Christmas season, I find it very hard to create the necessary space to give and receive love. Life is just too busy with all the extra activities and obligations of Christmas that arise within work, school, community, and family settings. During our family gift exchange where we interchange gifts expressing our love, do we truly experience love, or are these exchanges more gestures of love than the real thing? After rushing our children to the Church Christmas program, are we able to enter into the experience of God's love for us? How many of you, during the Christmas season, find time to practice self care, an act of loving one’s self? I cannot speak for the rest of you but I find that, if I’m not careful, I’m often too distracted, busy, stressed, or uptight to experience love.

Each Christmas season, I keep trying to create space for me to give and receive true experiences of love. I have found two strategies that work for me. One involves simplifying Christmas. By reducing the number of presents I buy and activities I participate in, I find I have more time and space where experiences of love can happen with my family, myself, and my faith. The second strategy involves finding ways to expand the Christmas season. Part of this includes doing Christmas shopping and certain social activities in November. The other part involves visiting family members before and after Christmas. I find we pack too many activities and expectations into Christmas and Boxing days thus limiting the depths of these experiences. As a result, we are often disappointed by Christmas.

In conclusion, I encourage each of us to find ways to deepen our experience of love within the Christmas season. Let us not become lost in all the busyness and stress.

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