Advent Journey: Carrying the Burden

Photo by Andrew Neel on

December 1 is, for many people, the threshold over which we must pass before it’s good form to turn on Christmas lights, put up a Christmas tree or decorate their home. I like to start a little earlier so it doesn’t have to feel like so much to do – decorate the house and the tree and bake the cookies and make sure the stockings are hung by the chimney with care (and there’s enough stuff hidden in my closet to fill those stockings with fun things 24 days hence), and cards are sent and dishes I need to bring to the events I need to attend and avoid the Whamageddon. And then you layer that on top of workdays bookended by darkness and cold and damp, and all the other… stuff, it’s a lot. Really, really, a lot.

Some people also have to layer into the pressure of December festivities that include strained or unhealthy relationships; the ache of loss for family members no longer at the table; the to-do list that’s burying you, the obligations you don’t love to carry on traditions you don’t enjoy. And some people have to try to balance all that with the high-speed wobble of unstable mental health, or insufficient self care, or the myriad of things that can make it hard for a person to be well. Caring for children, caring for aging parents, and imploding relationship, life in the world of COVID, loneliness, employment insecurity, financial pressure… sometimes the burden becomes unbearable.

We all have our crosses to bear, right?

Friends, today is the feast day of St. Simon of Cyrene. This was the Simon who, during the Passion of Christ, helped carry the cross when Jesus could not continue. This is the Simon of the 5th Station of the Cross. When I was a wee child in the Primary hallway at St. Martin of Tours elementary school, there was some artwork from an older grade on the wall outside their classroom. There was a child-friendly picture of Jesus, carrying his cross, having fallen on his way to his crucifixion, and a man kneeling beside him. This picture didn’t tell of the horror of what was happening, exactly, but there was Simon, helping Jesus when it was all too much.

Now, I’m not equating the burden of not baking enough biscotti to facing execution. Of course it’s not the same thing. But when you’re laying on the floor in the light of your half-decorated tree, trying not to cry and unsure whether the pressure in your chest is just swelling anxiety or a heart attack waiting to blossom, and someone says “Let me help”, it’s a blessed, blessed thing.

This Advent, may I not be so internally focused that I can’t help someone who’s burden is greater than mine. Or less than mine. Or equal to mine. This Advent, may I find grace in the help I can give.

One thought on “Advent Journey: Carrying the Burden

  1. Oh, how I remember those “must do” days of expectations, the crushing weight we all too often and unnecessarily pile on ourselves, most of which has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. Miraculously, along came the true Spirit of Christmas and turned it all into childlike expectancy for me, and ever since then, out went the to-dos and the musts, and even the stockings and whether I hang them or not are now spilling over with nothing but Joy. “No thank you” are magical words. Do what you love as Grace may lead, and have yourself a Merry LITTLE Christmas.


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