It's customary for pastors to send out a Christmas letter every year. Here's mine for 2009.
Christmas letter, 2009
The news this evening is that unemployment in California is now the worst since the Great Depression. Add this fact to the usual woes and worries (wars, flues, ungrateful children) and Christmas cheer starts to feel more like Christmas jeer – a joke played on us by the god of irony.
It seems that more and more of my friends are either taking anti-depressants, or should. It’s downright depressing! And it actually makes me wonder: “What good is this religion if it doesn’t make them happy?”
And then I wonder how Mary would have answered that question. Thankfully, after hearing the angel’s invitation and foreseeing her own heartbreak, she shifted her gaze up – to the difference she could make, and she said “Yes.”
I have studied the religions of the world somewhat seriously and I have yet to find a magical formula that causes bluebirds to break into song and encircle my head. The purpose of life is not defined by how we feel. True religion is about, well, the truth; and while the truth will set us free, it will also set our feet gently onto the ground, where we can be of use to others.
When everything seems bleak, it’s easy to let our feelings take over. We might even think we will always feel this bad – but that’s just the blues talking. Advent teaches us a truer lesson, which is that sometimes life involves what Henri Nouwen called “active waiting.” “The secret of waiting,” he said, “is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun.”
Advent teaches active waiting. Yes, things are tough – and yes, God is happening. Life is change; goodness erupts; tough times pass. Meanwhile, we join with Mary. We breathe the labor pains of love. We nurture the fragile lives in our care, including our own. We open our doors to the homeless. We feed the hungry children. We say “Yes” to our divine purpose – and in the process, we find a joy that would shame a bluebird.
I pray you might join us this Christmas – and discover the real joy of the season. I say this in the name of God, who, like me, rejoices at the sight of you.
The Rev. Matthew Lawrence, Rector
According to Mental Health America, “on average, people living with depression go for nearly a decade before receiving treatment, and less than one-third of people who seek help receive minimally adequate care.”
Depression is neither a moral nor a spiritual failing. Your blues may be nothing more than a bio-chemical condition, or the product of perfectly natural factors like stress, anger, fatigue, or unemployment. Sometimes good counseling makes all the difference; you might also benefit from a pill. Why not take advantage of what modern science has to offer?