Reframing Christmas and remembering true meaning • Jennifer Smith, Marriage & Family Theraist
Christmas is coming. For some, this time of year is a joyous time spent with family and friends. It is a time when some children get indulged with gifts from parents and relatives. For some it is a time when food is plentiful and when the number on the scale is certain to increase. But the scenarios mentioned are not what everyone experiences, for many and varied reasons.
This begs the question, “What is Christmas really all about?” As we begin this season, let’s think about what can give the holiday more meaning. Let’s reframe Christmas.
The term reframing designates a communication technique which has origins in family systems therapy and the work of Virginia Satir. Another meaning or another sense is assigned by reframing a situation or context, thus seeing the situation in another frame or point of view. A particular frame can refer to a belief that can limit our view of the world. If we let this limiting belief go, new conceptions and interpretation possibilities can develop.
Psychotherapists trained in the reframing by communication attempt to let scenes appear in another point of view (frame), so that someone feels relieved or is able to deal with the situation better. This is not the same as denial, but instead assigns a new perspective or belief to the same situation.
If we simply measure the Christmas season by the amount we get, or by the amount we spend (or go in debt) to “make Christmas special” for someone else, then we may need to alter our frame to include a new belief system about what Christmas actually honors. We can discard the beliefs we have come to know that make Christmas less honorable and cheapen the genuine meaning.
When this happens, we can reframe Christmas as a time when we practice our better selves by loving deeper and inspiring hope. I am amazed at the benevolence that is generated by the season. Charitable giving increases, compassion is revived, and intentional care is given to those with less.
At the heart of it all, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ. A birth that signified that God had come to be with us in our human condition, with all that it entailed. The entrance of Christ was done with such humility and simplicity, in order to say that Jesus came for us all, not just a select few. Therefore Christmas is not just for those who can ‘afford it,” but for everyone, because Christ is with us all and in us all and loves us all.
It is easy to slip into the glitter and glam of Christmas. It takes some time and effort to reframe Christmas so that the real meaning is celebrated and practiced among and between us. I challenge you (and myself) to be a part of something larger than us this season, that has the possibility of deepening and widening our frames and truly practicing the belief that God is with us.
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Printed in the December 6, 2012 edition