Wednesday, December 25, 2013
As Mojo and I prepared for our evening prayers, I shared with him a special request. “Mojo, an elderly friend of mine asked that we pray for him.”
“Is this elderly friend older than we are?”
“Yep, older and wiser too. He asked us to pray for him because this is his first Christmas without his wife, who died earlier this year. He is retired clergy and told me that he had counseled lots of folks who had Christmas depression, but now he knows personally what they were going through. Mojo, the two times in the year when humans are most likely to commit suicide are Christmas and Spring. What is going on outside of a person who is very sad - colorful decorations, carols, etc, at Christmas, flowers in bloom in the Spring — doesn’t match us with what is going on inside. Sometimes the pain is too much to bear.”
“I’ll certainly include him in my prayers, but does that mean that we should avoid the joy of Christmas?”
“Certainly not. When I was a pastor in a church I thought it my duty to preach a Christmas depression sermon each year. One year a young lady came up to me after worship. She told me that she wasn’t depressed when she went into worship, but she sure was depressed when she left. You’re right Mojo, there are many sides to the season. Alongside the possibility of feeling sad there is the possibility of feeling hope and even excitement as we think about what God has done and will do to make this broken world a bit more whole. And we reflect on those people who have gone before us to show the way.
“Sometimes it is a beloved relative and sometimes a person we have never met. Nelson Mandela is such a figure for me. He was as much a religious as a political figure. He was nurtured on the promise of the Bible as taught by missionaries in South Africa. His life embodied the journey of religious folks through tough times to bear witness to the God who can make a way out of no way. His time in prison prepared him to be the person who was equipped to bring down apartheid. His tools were amazingly like those of Jesus whose birth we celebrate, forgiveness and reconciliation. He could have come out of 27 years in prison seeking vengeance, but he didn’t and that made all the difference in the world. Another friend I talked with this week met Mandela. My friend worked for Umbro, the sports company. One of Umbro’s spokespersons was the great soccer player Pele. Pele would never set foot in South Africa during apartheid. When that awful system of racial injustice was dismantled and Mandela elected president of South Africa, Pele wanted to pay the new president a visit. My friend arranged the visit. Mandela was asked if there could be a time found in his busy schedule. Mandela said that Pele was welcome to come anytime and that he would clear his schedule. The president, Pele and my friend met in Mandela’s private home. When my friend entered, Mandela went up to him, shook his hand and told him that it was an honor to have him in his home. Wow.
“So, Mojo, as we say our prayers, let’s remember those for whom the season brings sadness and let’s be thankful for those who have shown us the way not only at Christmas but year round.”
“You got it. By the way, Merry Christmas.”
The Rev. Dr. Jim Watkins and Mojo