The elephant in the room at Christmas

Elephant in the room

Are you looking forward to Christmas? How easy is it to answer no if that is the truthful answer?
There are all sorts of reasons why Christmas is difficult. The first Christmas after a loss whether through bereavement or divorce or break up or moving is always difficult. Memories flood back of happier times or just different times that we were more comfortable with. I can never see the film ET without remembering that was the last Christmas Dad was with us.

In some of the work I have been doing around Christmas I have tried to at least hint at elephants in the room, those we have lost, our own insecurities, feelings of marginalization, risk taking, the future…

As we spend time with our families and friends over Christmas there may be a whole load of taboo subjects we ignore and it is reassuring for me that this may well have been the case at the first Christmas. Did anyone actually have the nerve to comment to Joseph about Mary’s unexpected pregnancy? Did Joseph speculate about what it would be like to be a stepfather? Did Mary ever say she wasn’t sure she was good enough to be the mother of God?

Sometime the elephant in the room needs naming – someone needs to have the courage to say what everyone is thinking or ask the question that is lingering in the background. Sometimes it is easier to pretend there is no elephant.
And sometimes we have the joy of celebrating relationships where there is no elephant!

This is the version of the poem that Paul uses in his work:
There’s an elephant in the room.
It is large and squatting, so it is hard to get around it.
Yet we squeeze by it with ‘How are you?’ and ‘I’m fine’ . . .
And a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.
We talk about the weather.
We talk about work.
We talk about everything else . . .
except the elephant in the room.
We all know it is there.
We are thinking about the elephant as we talk together.
It is constantly on our minds.
For you see, it is a very big elephant.
It has hurt us all.
But we do not talk about the elephant in the room.
Oh, please say the name.
Oh, please say it again.
Oh, please, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
For if we talk about it’s presence
perhaps we can acknowledge it’s there.
Can I say it to you and we talk about it
for if I cannot, then you are leaving me
alone . . . in a room . . . with an elephant.
(Author unknown)

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4 thoughts on “The elephant in the room at Christmas

  1. Thank you for sharing this Sally and for the poem which I hadn’t heard before. I have been too ill to come on the computer much recently but had just been reading an email from my aunt about how they were having a ‘Blue Christmas service’ for the first time at the church she goes to. I cerainally have my fair share of elephants and could relate to most of what you wrote from both a personal and professional perspective. For me, when I think of the Christmas story, my first thought is of suffering. The suffering that Mary and Joseph must have gone through and the fact that right from the moment Jesus entered the world he knew what it was to suffer-not quite the ideal birth plan most parents would have in mind! Obviiously, mixed with this is the central message of love and hope..yet those are things that some people simply find it hard or impossible to feel. It is something I would love to write a book on one day!

    I think it is made even harder by all the tinsel and glitter that society has added to the this festive season. So many people just can’t be happy at Christmas or enter into the festive spirit and feel glad. It is so important as Christians to recognise this; to acknowledge all the grief, pain, loss, suffering and emptiness some people feel – and to give people ‘permission’ to feel like that and to know that God in with them even if they can’t be happy.

    One of the people I think of most at this time of year is my Mum, partly as she is no longer here to celebrate with us but also because she died on Christmas eve. I remember people asking what they should buy her for Christmas and I said that prayer would be the best present. When she died I text several friends saying, “What better Christmas present could anyone ask for than to go to heaven to be with their Saviour”. I really meant it and I still do, but no amount of faith can take away the sense of physical loss. I remember walking outside the front door a few hrs after Mummy had died to tell neighbours and let those with children know that they would be coming to pick up her body soon. The street was busy and people had crates of beer and bags of shopping in their hands as I told them. Later that evening as we left midnight communion the minister said to my brother (who was 17 at the time) and me that he hoped we’d had a lovely day and had the haapiest Christmas ever. I simply said to him, “We’d value your prayers as our Mum died today”. I can still picture his face-he had no idea what to say. We didn’t want him to say much; simply to acknowledge that Christmas can be a hard time aswell as a time full of joy. He didn’t have those words though so we just left and he was able to carry on with his Christmas greetings, As we stepped outside we started to laugh at the shock on his face and inability to respond in anyway. It didn’t really matter to us but reflecting back I know that it would have caused immense hurt to many and I am left asking that if as Christians we cannot acknowledge those elephants then who can? Both with our neighbours and those at church there was a sense of our world having stopped for a moment but every one else was having a big party…a party to which I wonder if we sometimes even forgot to even invite Jesus.

    Sorry this is so long!

    Lucy xx

  2. That’s why I love your blog…because you are both so real and that encorages/ gives me a sence of permission to be real back, partly to you as a kind of accountability of myself but ultimatly in my relationship with God. To me that is what being a Christian is about but my experience has been that very few people (including well respected church leaders) can cope with honest Christianity. Thank you for allowing me to be real.

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