This week, I went on a guided tour of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and emergency room. As I sat down to lunch with my new friend in the brand-new cafeteria, I had an amazing experience. It was one of those full-circle, spiraling back-and-out experiences that allow you to reflect on the many stages of your life all at once. It was an instant when I felt the old, the new, and the not-yet-already. I remembered I had been there before and could see how far I had come. Yet I could also peer into the future and glimpse who I was becoming and where I was going, and it all filled me with great joy and contentment.
You see, over 10 years ago when I was a pre-med student studying inorganic chemistry at UCLA Extension, my study group and I would go to the cafeteria to study together on Sundays when it was practically empty. That day as I looked at those same tables where we had studied, I recalled our many fears and anxieties. What questions will be on this exam? Will we pass? Will we get into medical school? Is it all worth it? Yet now as I look back with joy and fondness, I realize my real purpose was not just to study medicine but to prepare to minister grace, healing, and wellness to the whole body, especially in matters of the heart and soul.
The Christmas holiday has many temporal dimensions also. First, there is the old — like the old Christmases we all long for; the ones that color our feelings of what Christmas really is, making us excited, hopeful, or even blue. Yes, we can even grieve at Christmas because the families we remember are no more or never were or because we are not able to experience the kind of Christmas we imagine. Then there are the old Christmas gift lists that will never come again, like the top 10 Christmas gifts of 100 years ago that included candy, nuts, a rocking horse, a doll, and a toy train! Oh, for those good old days!
But thoughts of older Christmases can also cause us to rejoice, remembering the real reason for the season was that angels sang a new song to shepherds in a field that a wonderful savior was born, bringing a great joy for all the world to experience being loved, forgiven, and appreciated — that years before the child was born, a prophet had proclaimed his calling would be to heal the brokenhearted, to set the imprisoned free, and to bring beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for the spirit of heaviness or depression. Yes, thoughts of the first Christmas remind us of the child named Jesus.
Then there is the new of Christmas — the new robes for old wineskins covered with bright colors and wrapped in the wonder and glitter of our childhood dreams. Yes, there is the brand new of Christmas. The new wreaths on our doors, new living and breathing trees decked with new decorations and the hope of those brand new friendships that promise the wonder of the love we have been waiting for all year long. Yes, we are all dreaming of a bright new Christmas of the not-yet-already, fulfilled by our faith, hope, and love.
This Christmas I pray that contentment, joy, and love just flow down into your life and that peace — great peace — fills your heart and soul. I pray that you remember how far you have come and that you made it! That no matter what your age or wounded heart’s condition, that you not allow the ceilings of your now to limit who you will become — but that with grateful, thankful hearts you reach far beyond the stars for the meaning of your life. Yes, this Christmas dare to dream and to allow the divine light present at creation to bring you one-by-one all the blessings that the old-and-new-you need every morning.
May you and yours enjoy a very blessed holiday season!
Akivah Northern is a certified Family Wellness Trainer and holds a Master in Divinity from Yale. Her biweekly column explores the deeper heart in all its dimensions. She welcomes heartfelt questions from readers of all ages at firstname.lastname@example.org.