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I never thought of December 21st as a mood changer. The date came and went with a passing awareness of the end of shorter days and the beginning of a minute or so more daylight each day.

That is until I spent five years in Buffalo. There the nature of my ministry regularly required being on the road late in the afternoon. I became much more aware of the transition to less light and the increased hazards of night driving in an area prone to icy roads. So even though winter was not yet in full force, I rejoiced on December 21.  I knew each passing week would bring more light.

A trivial event, and a small mood change. Whether great or small, events have a way of shaping our moods. But ultimately, it is what we are aware of and focus on that shapes our moods.

Differing Christmas moods

This December 21 in the year of COVID I have reflected on changing moods as we face isolation from loved ones.

Ordinarily, the Christmas season brought with it the anticipated joy of family gatherings. We looked forward to celebrating and counting our blessings.

The same event this year in so many cases brings darker moods. Over 300,000 more families face somber moods in the absence of loved ones no longer able to sit at their table. And that does not count the much greater number of those who will be in isolation in their homes, or much worse, in ICU units. Then there are political rifts in families!

The same event gives rise to conflicting moods depending upon context.

Again, events shape our mood especially to the extent they seem to capture our attention.

The differing moods of our faith

It would be surprising if in our spiritual lives we did not find many shifts in our moods rooted in external events. Just look at the early followers of Jesus.

They were excited by this miracle worker called Jesus, attracted to follow him and expected him to solve all their problems. They loved listening to him, celebrating meals and feasts with him.

Then came the disillusionment of the pain-filled week we call Holy. It began with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “Now is the time!” His close followers were delighted to be with him at celebratory suppers. They had no idea what it would cost him to live out what he preached …  love everyone, even enemies.

Then the cross! Angry, shocked they did not know what to do. In this different context they asked Mary’s question “How could this be?

With the glimpses of the risen Christ, their mood changed. Still, they did not understand the cost of following him. Jesus asked them to be “foot-washing” people serving not only their fellow Jews but all the gentiles, and even people like the hated Samaritans.

In the years following Jesus walking in their midst they struggled to learn what it meant to themselves to incarnate the message of Jesus… which of course meant that they too would suffer.

As we look at the many parallels with our lives would it be any wonder that events would be mood changers?

For each of us the challenge is to focus as much as we can on the big picture.

Emmauel, God is with us… has “lived” the worst that can influence our moods. Let’s focus on the big picture … even in our doubts and confusion.