Said the night wind to the little lamb, do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky little lamb, do you see what I see?
A star, a star dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite…
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the boy, shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song high above the trees, with a voice as big as the sea.
A star, a star, shining in the night, how does this look from so high?
A shepherd boy shivering with fright, how does this look to your eyes?
A king to come…. are you ready for your surprise?
Ok, so it’s Christmas and it feels different to me this year. Especially in the shadow of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, I feel challenged to examine my faith, the meaning of Christmas, and perhaps even the meaning of life. And this Christmas song above, keeps ringing in my head.
What do I keep seeing and hearing and feeling? Is it the overwhelming images and words from the news, or is it something deeper within myself that I feel, that calms, that loves and that heals? With empathy pouring out of me, I experience a raw sense of life, of mortality, of vulnerability that resonates with so many others. I reflect on my calling as a physician and the daily reminders in medicine of that same raw sense of life, of mortality and of vulnerability that also are present.
And those powerful feelings feel ironically so powerless. As I sit in the silence of reflection, there is a link for me in the Sandy Hook struggle and that of the struggle for health and wholeness witnessed in medicine. And the link comes from the true meaning of Christmas, and my faith and the true holy within each one of us and that achieved by our collective goodness. It brings resilience, it brings healing, it brings hope.
When we ask, Where was God on December 14th?, we are all challenged, I believe. I am. I also hear patients ask, “Why me?” to all sorts of medical challenges: cancer, genetic disorders, trauma, loss of a child….WHY? But with these overwhelming challenges, God’s face can be found in the kindness of those who help us on the journey. It helps to focus on the positive when overwhelmed like this. Research shows that gratitude and giving help us heal.
The flood of emotions is so real and each one legitimate. Such tragedy or need that illness awakens in us can unify and empower us in amazing ways. We can’t be waiting only for an exterior something to come save us. We want to look into the sky and have a savior come for us. But the beauty is the savior is in us! We certainly want to protect and prevent. That is wise. But the answers are within you and me. They are stars that stir within our souls then when we can share that sparkle across each other, that is the message of Christmas, and that is the message of healing. No matter what your faith background, we need to respect our life’s journey and the challenges and surprises it brings. Christmas can remind us all of that if we choose to listen.
I do not have all the answers, but I have a love and respect for life and that star shining in each of us. It feels risky to talk about faith and God publicly, especially as a physician. I see a medical system that has become distracted so much by the mechanics of running it that it is at risk of losing a focus on healing. Cancer, disease, trauma… all seem unfair.
But the resilience of healing comes from a physical, mental, and spiritual place that are inclusive of each other within each of us. It is the star shining in the night. I see it. I hear it. I feel it. Do you? I pray that this Christmas, we can dig deep and find it within ourselves and reach far to share it with our neighbors and the world.
Namaste. Shalom. Salaam Walekum. Merry Christmas! And peace to you all!