For many people, this season isn't a time of joy. The commercial emphasis on Christmas and the focus on picture-perfect celebrations makes those without family, or whose family is dysfunctional, feel even more alone. There is, however, a comforting joy to be found and celebrated at Christmastime—and any time. And it's not too late for them to find it.

When my wife and I lived in Venezuela, we felt surrounded by more festive public celebrations of Christmas than we had seen anywhere else. The whole city of Caracas would decorate itself, with huge apartment buildings becoming festooned in lights and looking somewhat like 200-foot-high Christmas trees. The streetlamps were covered in garlands, and each shop seemed to try to outdo the next with decorations. Sometimes the whole effect seemed almost overwhelming, but it certainly was a visual delight. At times, it pleasantly distracted us from difficulties we were facing in our own family.

I learned to love Venezuelan music, from formal concerts at the National Theater to informal gatherings in friends' homes. Full of infectious Latin rhythms, the country's songs reminded us that the liberating presence of the Christ—present here and now—is an occasion for joy, for clapping of hands, for dancing (at least mentally). Still, our holidays in Venezuela were saddened because some of our family members chose to be elsewhere. It was hard to feel joyful at a time that emphasizes the gathering of relatives.

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Testimony of Healing
December 19, 2005

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