Last time, we took some time out of our day to celebrate Thanksgiving by… well, giving thanks. But the holiday season is only now beginning. Here in Tennessee, lights are going up on the houses and trees in preparation for Christmas. But despite being a much bigger holiday (or perhaps because of it), December 25th doesn’t have anything like as clear a meaning.
For many people, Christmas is a time for family, vacation, big dinners, and sleeping til noon. For our children, it’s a time of excitement, anticipation, and waking us up before noon so they can open their presents under the tree. But there’s a dark side to it as well. Not just the commercialism, but how it throws whatever peace and community we don’t have into such sharp relief. Unpleasant a topic as it is, I’m sure we’ve all heard about how suicide rates skyrocket this time of year.
I’m not going to solve any of this in a short blog post, but maybe we can at least dig a little into the underlying bedrock. We might even gain a little insight into what really makes the difference between these “light and dark sides” of the holiday season, and perhaps even find a little more peace this time.
And I’ve become convinced that Peace really is the key to all of this, so perhaps it’s fortunate that we’re coming fresh out of our Thanksgiving post. Last week, I said that gratitude was, essentially, a way of making peace with an unjust world. But how is it that we fall out of peace in the first place? Is it just when something unjust is done to us? No, obviously that can’t be it, because sometimes we lose our sense of peace from our own actions.
I’ve come to believe that in the long-term, our peace (or lack thereof) is always a symptom of our internal state. Sure, being treated unjustly or having a problem in a relationship is distressing, but if your internal state is good, those things generally don’t keep you down for long. There are a lot of words for these internal issues: sin, self-destructive behavior, trauma, etc. Not that these are all the same, of course, but they do share the common symptom of destroying peace.
This is why for years, I’ve treated peace as a kind of, “light on the dashboard.” If you have it, then at least overall, internally, things are almost always good. If you don’t, then that’s all you need to know that something is off.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be taking a closer look into the process by which peace is had, lost, and recovered. Hopefully, before the season is over, we’ll all be a little closer to its spirit.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!
Dr. Alex Loyd