The holiday season is almost upon us again. The crisp air tells us that it's almost winter. Or, as I drove across Illinois and Iowa a couple of weeks ago it was snowing… so winter is already here. Colorado just got about a foot of snow.
Have you ever heard the popular phrase, “Winter is coming”? Like even if you’ve never seen the popular HBO show Game of Thrones, you have maybe heard this or seen it on social media or a t-shirt at Target. “Winter is coming”. It’s the signature slogan for the show. It’s indicating a danger that is coming. It’s not just a regular winter, it’s a winter filled with dangerous creatures. Like the kind that comes from your nightmares.
“Winter is coming” is a statement to stay vigilant and to keep perspective of what the real dangers are in the world. Like when a couple of the characters fight or two of the houses are in a fight, someone might say, “Winter is coming” to add the perspective that we are all on the same side and a greater enemy is coming.
Well folks, winter is coming.
With the holiday season each year, it brings many things. It brings lots of family time, it brings feasts, presents, decorations, and joy. It also brings a string of anxiety and depression.
The holiday times see a spike in mental health issues each year. Some induced by the shear stress of the holidays. Some is induced by anxiety around family gatherings and putting all of these strained relationships into one house.
For some, a lack of family causes depression and anxiety. Maybe spending the holidays wallowing in memories past. And the end of the year season brings a spike in deaths adding to the levels of a depressed December.
And you know, just normal seasonal depression for the winter.
And that is just a normal year! It’s 2020 y’all. This holiday season brings a level of anxiety that we can’t even comprehend fully yet. Do we see family this year? The COVID spikes are already starting for the season. DO we just stay home? Spend the holidays alone? What is the safe choice?
Many are fearful of holiday gatherings for clashes in political opinions this year more than even before when families get together at the end of a devastating year.
It might just be easiest to bury ourselves in fear. To get on the couch and cover ourselves in blankets and stay there until April, right?
We can become slaves to our emotions. To that little voice in our head that tells us what to feel and think. Is that voice a master of generosity or a master of fear?
It's tough for many of us to be generous with ourselves. Our fears and our doubts can often turn to self isolation and a lack of self worth.
I want to say to all of you who are struggling with these fears, the innate sense to bury yourself this season and hide from your fearful master, I hear you. It is a tough time of the year in any given year, but this year… this year is going to be tough. Our mental health can be tough to maintain in the long winter months where we don’t get enough sunshine, where we are already spending too much time indoors, where in 2020 we are fearful just to leave the house. It’s easy to bury ourselves.
Our Gospel lesson shows us two sides of the same master in a parable. To one, this master is terrifying and out of self preservation the servant hides his talent, which is a piece of currency worth the monetary value of about 20 years worth of wages. But to another, the master is generous, giving much and inspiring the servants to grow and be generous in return. What each of them see in the master is a reflection of their own spirit.
If we live and react in fear we end up buried. We end up where we started, or worse, the little voice in our head can cast us out and make us feel like we are unworthy, like we are cast into darkness.
What if we tried to be more generous with ourselves this winter? Like, we can’t make the pandemic go away, and we can’t change family dynamics single handedly. We can’t change the amount of sunlight. I can’t make the Baltimore Christmas village open this year.
But. what are ways that we can be kinder to ourselves? What are ways that we can take the time to give ourselves some self love? Self care is important to help manage our depression and anxiety. It’s important to be generous with ourselves.
Winter is coming. You can’t control what is to come, but you can control how you will treat yourself. Maybe this year, you splurge on you and get that new piece of home workout equipment you have been wanting. Maybe a new book series. Maybe it’s using courage and making an appointment with a therapist. Maybe it’s making the time to Facetime or call two friends a week to laugh and catch up.
One thing that we aren’t always the greatest at as humans, that God is always good at is being forgiving, merciful, and loving to us always. God gives us the gift of grace and through this the endless love of generosity. And always remember this: even if you can't get unburied, God is still with you, loving you, and encouraging you always.
Winter is coming. What will you do? What master will you see reflected in yourself? Love or fear? And remember that no matter what, God is always loving you anyways. Amen.