As a teenager fishing off my seawall one Christmas afternoon, I ran into a man in his 30s.
I promptly and politely inquired about his Christmas.
He replied very tellingly: "You know Christmas is more for kids than for adults."
How could this man really not like Christmas?
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Well for many, there is no family and there is no feast.
Or there is a family, and that's the problem.
I presume either was the case.
Isolated and hungry.
Literally, emotionally or spiritually.
It's not just for those in shelters or on the streets. We all struggle with loneliness and hunger for something greater.
My favorite holiday movie, "Christmas Vacation," depicts an extremely dysfunctional extended family under one roof.
One disaster after another leaves the family, not to mention the house, totally disheveled.
Chevy Chase's character, Clark Griswold, eventually seeks an answer to the familial conundrum: "How did you get through times such as these (family crises), Dad?"
The only answer the father can really muster is: "I had a lot of help from Jack Daniel's."
Is Jack the only hope for a rough holiday?
I can't remember a whole lot of bad Christmas holidays other than having to play a wise man in my neighborhood Christmas pageant and being mistaken for Aunt Jemima (I was garbed in a woman's bathrobe and turban).
But I'm definitely in the minority.
Even for those who so love Christmas day, how do we feel when the day has ended?
Depressed, let down?
Is there anything more depressing than stripping a Christmas tree or taking down lights in the yard?
I would propose something slightly less tangible than Mr. Daniels, yet certainly more fulfilling. And not that much less tangible-some daily devotions.
The early church (around the sixth century) began to celebrate a season before Christmas presents were even invented -- even before fruitcake, I think, or before it became popular.
It's called Advent. Usually celebrated in churches four weeks before Christmas, the season of Advent reminds us of two things.
First of all, we celebrate that Jesus has come and adopted all those who believe in him into a new family without distinctions, labels, or pecking order: the church.
But the second and oft overlooked aspect of Advent is longing and anticipation for what Jesus has yet to do: bring a new world without suffering.
Tears, while not traditionally associated with Christmas, have always been associated with Advent. The tradition calls Christians to long for Jesus' Second Coming, understanding that the First Coming has not left us hopeless.
Advent becomes quite helpful during the daily grind of December. In a season filled with ads for anything and everything, how can we escape the materialism, not to mention the devastation of painful memories or family loss?
Simple daily devotions centered around these Advent themes can guard us both from materialism and despair. And when it's time to take down the lights, we don't have to be depressed. We've anticipated and celebrated more than just a day, but the day. A day without any need for old Jack.
There are a number of different advent devotionals which may be helpful. Churches often have them, or they can be downloaded for free or purchased online.
Pastor Geoff Henderson, at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at@theapostleGH. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald written by local clergy members.