Posted on : Monday December 13, 2010

Dear Counselor:
With the Holiday season rapidly approaching, I find myself with ambivalent feelings that range from joyful excitement to fearful dread. To have anything but joy during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons seems to me to be an unfaithful response and leaves me confused. How can I understand this?      – Confused

Dear Confused:
I am not sure of all the issues that might be driving your ambivalent feelings and it may be helpful for you to talk further with your pastor, a friend, or a counselor about them. However, I am struck by the fact that most all of the participants in the first Christmas had a similar array of feelings such as yours and we would rarely describe them as being “unfaithful.”

Mary is troubled and afraid then magnifies the Lord. Joseph is afraid of what is happening with Mary then is content to take her as his wife. The shepherds are terrified when the angels approach them then later return glorifying and praising God.

Instead of thinking about your ambivalent feelings as a sign of unfaithfulness, perhaps it would be better to frame them as a normal response to the approach of God.  The angel says to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

It is a well-known fact that while the “shadow of God’s wings” might eventually bring joy and peace, it initially brings terror and confusion.

In the face of anything fearful, confusing, or uncertain that might approach you during the Holiday season, instead of defaulting to concerns about your faithfulness, it would be more creative to gather your curiosity and ask, “What is God about to do in my life?” Even if something “bad, disappointing, or upsetting” happens during the Holidays, if you stay with it, like Mary saying, “I am the Lord’s servant,” something new, creative, and growth-producing will eventually show up.

Dr. Thomas Rodgerson is a counselor with CentrePoint Counseling.

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