Maureen Pratt

Peace on earth. Good will toward all. Comfort and joy. Light and love. Prosperity. Purpose.

Did last year’s wishes as expressed in songs and greetings come to pass in 2013?

Or, as we approach another holiday season, with another round of carols and cards, are you feeling tired? Hollow? Discouraged? Unfulfilled?

Are you wondering, “What’s the point to these weeks of celebration, gift-giving, sleep-deprivation-causing holiday responsibilities and reunions with people I don’t have much contact with the other 10 or 11 months of the year, let alone really like?”

Are you already looking past December and into a new year when it might seem that troubles will only continue?

It is difficult to take off stress and put on cheer at any time of year, let alone during the jam-packed holiday season. Many people I have spoken with, myself included, have had extremely difficult lives this year, peppered with loss, financial worry and health concerns.

It might even seem appealing to hibernate through the next six or eight weeks, only emerging when the new year is underway. But if we step back a bit from the adult-ness of how we feel, the bone-weary, emotionally drained individual buffeted by external pressures and internal angst, we might begin to feel differently.

This time of year, unlike other weeks and months, is not for the world-worn cynic, but for the child.

We can choose to focus on the child born in Bethlehem. This period is about the birth of Jesus Christ, in a manger, far from glitz and glamour. He is the point of this season, and no special interest group or hectic schedule can tear us from this wondrous, peace-giving gift from God, his only son, come down to earth. This season is for renewal of appreciation of our faith.

This season is for the children among us who have no inhibitions about expressing delight in laughter, unconditional love and even too-cute insistence in “how many more days until …”

It is to these children that history, traditions and — most important — faith practices are passed. There is no time like the holidays to reinforce the values and faith that form the backbone for the oft-sung “people of good will.”

The next few weeks is for the child in all of us. Medical studies show the importance of laughter and play, the human need to take time for rest and relaxation.

The days of Thanksgiving and Christmas are crucial for we who desire to be better, do better and reflect all the good that God has given us. We are celebrating a marvelous gift, one given freely, with complete love. Simply put, if we take the holidays too seriously, we will seriously miss the point.

Even if this year has been up and down, or more down than up, the point of the holiday season is not to erode well-being and heap stress upon stress. Let’s take the opportunity to breathe deeply, enjoy the world with childlike eyes and renew our faith, energy and focus so that no matter what the next year brings we will meet it with courage and strength.