By John J. Boucher
The Advent-Christmas season is a time of joy, peace, and celebration, but it can also be a time of sadness, loneliness, and grief for many people. The memories of past Christmases, whether happy or painful, can stir up emotions that are hard to cope with. But such memories can also be a source of healing for us and for others. “The Nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture. As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman. We come to realize that so great is his love for us that he became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with him.” (Pope Francis, Christmas at the Nativity, 2023)
How can we use our Christmas memories to let the Holy Spirit heal us and others?
Here are eight concrete ways:
1. Share your good Christmas memories with someone who needs them. Sometimes, the best gift we can give is our presence and our stories. If you know someone who is going through a difficult time, or who is feeling isolated or depressed, reach out to them and share some of your Advent or Christmas memories. You might make them laugh, cry, or feel less alone. You might also learn something new about them or yourself.
2. Write down your memories and keep them in a special place. Writing can be a powerful way of processing and preserving our memories. It can help us to express our feelings, reflect on our experiences, and gain new insights. Write down your memories in a journal, a letter, a card, a scrapbook, a blog, or in social media posts. You can also decorate your Christmas memories with photos, drawings, stickers, or anything else that makes them more meaningful to you.
3. Create something new from your memories. Use them to write a poem, a song, a story, or a play. You can also use them to make a painting, a collage, a sculpture, or a craft. You can then share your creations with others and share why they are meaningful to you.
4. Revisit the places and people that are part of your memories. If you can, visit the places and people that are part of your Advent and Christmas memories like homes of relatives, parishes from your past, or public Christmas celebrations or light displays. You might also discover new things about them or yourself.
5. Make new memories with old traditions. Traditions are an important part of Advent and Christmas for many people. They help us to connect with our past, our culture, and our values. They also give us a sense of continuity and stability in a changing world. My family has always used the creche or Nativity scene as a place for sharing stories, joys, and prayer. Our experience inspired us to create an outreach to both active and inactive Catholics called, “Christmas Carol Festival,” a way for families and parishes to gather informally during Advent to sing Christ-centered carols, share stories of faith, hear the Gospel of Jesus and commit ourselves together to him. If you have traditions that are part of your Christmas memories, try to keep them alive by doing them again with your family or friends.
6. Start new traditions with new people. Sometimes, we need to let go of old traditions that no longer serve us or that cause us pain. We can also create new traditions that reflect who we are now and what we want for the future. If you have new people in your life, such as a spouse, a child, or a friend, try to start new traditions with them that celebrate your relationship and celebrate the coming of the Savior.
7. Give thanks to Jesus for your Christmas memories and what they taught you. Our memories are not just events that happened in the past; they are also lessons that shape us in the present. “Make it a habit to raise your heart to God, in acts of thanksgiving, many times a day. Because he gives you this and that … Because someone has despised you … Because you don’t have what you need, or because you do have it … Thank him for everything, because everything is good.” (St. Josemaria Escriva)
8. Offer your Advent-Christmas memories to God and ask for healing from the Holy Spirit. They are also God’s gift to us. He gave us the ability to remember and to learn from our experiences. He also knows everything that happened to us and how we feel about it. He loves us unconditionally and wants us to be healed and joyful.
As we explore our Advent-Christmas stories and experiences with others, we inspire them to reflect on their own memories and to create new ones. We also connect with them on a deeper level. We realize that we are not alone in our joys and sorrows, that we have a family that extends beyond blood and borders, and that we have a God who loves us unconditionally. It is but a small step from there to inviting them to join us in meeting Jesus Christ this Christmas, again or for the first time, in our homes, at parish celebrations, and even at Christmas Mass
This article is reprinted courtesy of the The Catholic Free Press.