I am not much for alcohol. I grew up in a household that simply didn’t have any of it around. It was because of religious beliefs (I did not grow up as a Lutheran). Also, I suspect, there might have been another reason. My maternal grandmother, in her first marriage, had a husband who was an alcoholic. That marriage lasted about a year. He was abusive when he was drunk.
I didn’t drink at all in high school. However, when I was in the military, that changed. I did experiment with beer and wine, and there were a couple of occasions that I did drink too much.
The day after I had too much wine, I decided to exercise. There was an athletic field nearby. I ran around the track with a bad hangover. I felt no pain no matter how far I ran. I was completely numb. Quite honestly, this frightened me so much that I decided never to do that again.
After the military, I entered college. I didn’t like the taste of beer. I did have some wine on occasion, but infrequently and not to excess.
After that, I would only have an occasional glass of wine, sipped slowly, the taste savored.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, one definition of “hangover” is “disagreeable physical effects following heavy consumption of alcohol or the use of drugs.”
I now have a different kind of hangover. I call this a “holy hangover.” As I write, our Christmas tree is still up; its LED lights are still glowing. We usually have the tree up for the twelve days of Christmas. This ends on Epiphany, which commemorates the visit of the Magi (“Wise Men”) to the young Jesus and is always on Jan. 6. Well, that was four days ago. I am procrastinating. Taking down the tree will take yet more energy.
You see, another definition of a hangover is: “a letdown following great excitement or excess.” I think that applies. We had three worship services on or around Christmas. However, there were also the aspects of Christmas shopping and getting prepared to have a family gathering.
Celebrating the birth of Jesus can be one big party. Sometimes, we can make it too big a deal. In doing so we may become exhausted (or even numb). Why, oh why, can’t we manage to scale this down? I really think the simpler the better. It’s Jesus’ birthday. The exhaustion can happen when we make it more complex than it needs to be and more about us than the Christ child.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.