Stress can kill, and fear is behind most of our stress. Unfortunately, we have an awful lot to be afraid of these days. At Christmastime, I wonder if prayer can help us deal with our fears, and maybe even with the causes of those fears.
When I say “prayer,” I don’t mean any particular religion. It doesn’t have to be religious at all. It could be meditation or just tuning in to nature and our own bodies. But being part of a faith or belief system might make prayer more powerful for some people.
When I say “fear,” I’m including all our deepest personal fears, like about diabetes, or death, or our children, or finances. I mean fears about the environment, like global warming and nuclear disasters. Fears about wars and politics count too.
There is truly a lot to be scared of, but fear doesn’t help much. Christmas is a good time to find hope.
Christmas has always been a time to look for new hope and new beginnings. According to History.com, “Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter.”
December 25 is four days after the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. As the days started to get longer after the solstice, people knew the sun wasn’t going away. The worst of winter darkness was behind them, and they could look forward to longer days and more light.
It seems like most Northern cultures have celebrated around Christmastime. The Romans had Saturnalia, which was something like an extended Mardi Gras. One event they seemed to value was called Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome.
According to History.com, “In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.” In the fourth century, Pope Julius I established December 25 as the birthday of Jesus. “It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.”
This makes sense to me, and I think it’s a good thing. Christmastime has always been about new hope, which Jesus certainly represents. I think we should take it as a time of new hope also. And we should meditate or pray that things will get better.
For the last month or so, I have started every meditation session with a prayer for the people working on the Fukushima nuclear shutdown. This is apparently a very dangerous situation that could render all of Japan radioactive if anything goes wrong. I pray that the hands of the engineers and workers will be guided.
After the Philippines super-typhoon, I’ve been meditating and praying for people to come to their senses and stop ripping up our Mother Earth. We have to stop putting all this carbon in the air; which might mean driving much less, eating much less meat, and having fewer children.
What about our own health? Maybe some prayer will help give us the strength to keep self-managing and to try harder to get better. There has to be a reason to put in all that work, and meditation/prayer might help us connect with those reasons.
I’m familiar with arguments that prayer is a waste of time, because there’s nobody out there listening. Maybe, maybe not. But there is someone inside you listening, and that might just as good, or might even be the same thing.
Whether you meditate or pray, or not, I wish you a wonderful and happy Christmas and New Year. I am grateful to all of you who read and comment on this blog, and I hope we can continue to help each other in 2014.