The Rev. Ed Bacon

Photo: Cam Sanders/All Saints Church Pasadena

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The Rev. Ed Bacon: Why Family Is Good Medicine
I love the holiday season for all the emotions. I feel a lot during the holidays. Sadness, elation, tears, fears, anger and laughter all flood in in varying degrees each year. The healthier the holidays, the more all those feelings bring their own messages, and I am a fuller and more complete person because of them.

Let me illustrate. For me, the "holiday season" begins on Thanksgiving Eve and extends through the four weeks of Advent, then the 12 days of Christmas, with New Year's Day thrown into the mix. That 45-day period is marked with distinct moods, foods, gatherings, rituals and spiritualities: the spirituality of gratitude, waiting in anticipation for something new and exciting in my life and the life of the world and the gifts of new things and new life, giving hope to resolutions about the next calendar year.

With so much going on, there are bound to be times of feeling mad, bad, sad, happy, peaceful and afraid. Let them all come in. Instead of being attached to any of them, simply have a holiday commitment to asking, "What is this feeling telling me about my state of being right now?" That can be a holiday gift in and of itself: More self-awareness. What a gift!

From my perspective, a good holiday season leaves us with two things: a stronger sense of stability, or ballast for our journey, and a sense of newness in life's purpose.

My 85-year-old mother frequently says, "Son, being with family is like good medicine." Now, this is from a person who operates from a lifelong commitment to enjoy herself no matter what. If someone tries to spoil the party, she says to herself, "Consider the source." The source she's referring to (I have come to understand) is the state of that person's soul at that particular time. A person may be acting like a jerk because he or she is really hurting or is really scared or really sad inside. To consider their source, without it determining my state of being, is a great experience of freedom.

Then there are all of the parties, the turkey and dressing, the gift exchanges, the gathering of family for affection and good healthy disagreements, the holiday music, the wonder of the Sacred in our lives, the New Year's resolutions—all can be a seminar of what it means to be fully human. After it's all over and we are longing for some ordinary time again, we can discover that we have a much healthier foundation or stability for moving forward and we will have discovered many new gifts that the Spirit of the Cosmos has given us! Last word: Don't forget to rest. Breathe in the wonder of simply being a human being who has God dwelling within us. And let that breath truly be a holy-day.

The Rev. Ed Bacon is a guest host for the Oprah's Soul Series radio show. He is also the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California.

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Next: Nate Berkus on growing up with two holidays »

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