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Hello everyone,

I hope this finds you all staying well as we make our way through this rather unique Advent season. This message to you all is a little different than my previous ones. Last Monday I was able to join a webinar hosted by Timothy Eaton Memorial United Church in downtown Toronto. We were thinking together about how to help each other to cope during Christmas this year, particularly with the added complications the pandemic has brought to this season and to our attempts to celebrate it.

There were three presenters and all were good, however one in particular stood out for me. He is Rev. Chris Miller, the Minister of Pastoral Care at Timothy Eaton Memorial. Let’s just say that Chris is well placed in that role. His pastoral wisdom and care radiated from what he shared and so I am grateful that he has agreed to let me share it with you all. (Thank you Chris!) Chris’ thoughts are wise and simple enough that we can all grasp them. My hope is that you might find these helpful and maybe even try to implement at least a few as you care for yourself and for those you love this Christmas.

Here is Chris’ simple list of ten things we can do to help us cope during this season, with a few thoughts of my own added in.

1. Keep your life as simple as you can.

There may actually be a strange blessing in our being restricted from having large elaborate celebrations this year. As we try to cope with all that this pandemic has meant to us emotionally, this year we are wise to keep things simple and manageable and therefore more enjoyable.

2. Keep your mind centered on what is good.

Another presenter talked about how helpful and healthy it is to think about the things we are grateful for. With so much focus on what is wrong, choosing to look for and pay attention to what is good can help us not to be overwhelmed with negative emotions and anxiety.

3. Take your time. Eliminate hurry.

I’ve been trying to practice this one since the webinar last week and I have to say that the tension that seems to have been living in my body since March is definitely easing.

4. Relax.

Simplify your “to do” list. For those of us who make “to do lists” this is a big part of the advice given in number 1, to keep life simple.

5. Listen to music that you find relaxing or soothing.

6. Sing!

At Christmas we know the words to many of the songs we hear being played, so sing along, even if you are alone (or maybe especially if you are alone). That old adage “sing like no one is listening” is a good one to keep in mind right now!

7. Laugh!

Do you have a favourite movie or television series or book that makes you laugh out loud? Make some time to watch/read/listen to these things and let yourself laugh. It is good for the soul.

8. Talk.

Give a friend or family member a call, just to talk. It will be good for you and good for them. Connecting with others is more important now than ever.

9. Talk with God.

Take time to pray. Your prayers don’t have to be elaborate or planned. Just tell God how you are doing and then sit and listen for God’s response to you. Dare to believe that what you might sense or “hear” may actually be a gift from God to you. Do this often over the Christmas season. As we affirm regularly in our New Creed, “God is with us. We are not alone.”

10. Practice the presence of God.

As you go through each day take a few moments to stop and to be still and quiet. As you do this pay attention to what you sense around you. A gentle peaceful presence very well might be God there with you.

Dear friends, I am writing this on the third Sunday of Advent, a Sunday when our focus is on joy, and I find myself thinking that this is good timing for this message. I truly hope that these simple pearls of wisdom help you to experience the joy there is to be found as we celebrate the amazing truth that, in Christ, God has come to be here with us, through it all.

God bless and Merry Christmas, from my home to yours.