Spiritual Reflections

Christmas Morning

TrainChristmas Traditions make the holiday special. Christmas morning is when we gather in the Great Room at Bald Eagle Hospitality House to share Christmas traditions, while our residents enjoy sipping hot chocolate. Every family has their own traditions that make Christmas a special time for them. This is when we gather to reminisce and share the magical moments in our lives. Some residents share stories from their childhood, recalling sliding down the stairs with a sense of wonder and awe they experienced from seeing the lights and decorations and presents under the tree. For others, their most treasured memory is the electric train set up on its own platform with scenes of towns, clusters of decorated trees and of course the train whistle and the smoke that comes out of the engine. Our older residents recall the Christmas celebrations that they created for their children, passing down the great Christmas traditions to the next generation. Some feel that a traditional Christmas Eve church service is what really makes Christmas come alive for them. Others recall the special holiday meal and the Christmas goodies they got to enjoy.

Making of the Jesse TreeAlong with our reminiscing, we sing carols and we hang the last ornament on our Jesse Tree. To complete our special Advent tradition we hang a picture of the baby Jesus in the center of the Jesse Tree. This helps us all appreciate the passage of time and the fulfillment of God’s plan. With our minds focused on the goodness of God and our hearts warmed by the special memories of Christmases spent with those we love, we open presents to remind us of the many gifts we have received from God. At St. Joseph Institute Christmas morning is filled with memories and gratitude and “glad tidings of great joy.”

Christmas Afternoon

foodWe welcome family members and friends of residents to join us for our Christmas feast of freshly roasted turkey, baked ham, homemade stuffing and mashed potatoes, along with candied sweet potatoes, freshly steamed vegetables, and pineapple casserole. Of course, no holiday dinner would be complete without our delicious homemade pies: pumpkin, pecan, apple and egg custard. Our residents get to fully participate in this joyous holiday and share this blessed time with their family members.


ChapelOn Christmas Eve we have a Chapel service of “Lessons and Carols” to celebrate in word and song the events from the Bible that lead up to Christmas. Every day during Advent we practice singing a Christmas carol to prepare residents to participate in the carol singing on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve service is a celebration of light which includes the lighting of the Advent Wreath and our recognition of the Light of Christ that has come into the world.

During the evening celebration residents also participate in a guided meditation that is designed to give them an experiential understanding of what the shepherds must have felt when the angel appeared proclaiming “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” After our faith celebration we all gather in Bald Eagle Hospitality House to enjoy special snacks and home baked goodies.

The goal of our Christmas celebration is to create special holiday memories that are an integral part of the new life that begins during the recovery process. Through the blessed season of Christmas we are able to capture the treasured memories of the past and unite them to the celebrations of the present in order to form a solid foundation for the many sober Christmases that are yet to come.

Sober-MerciesSome would call it human nature, but perhaps it is more accurately described as a human weakness.  I’m referring to our common desire to sugar-coat the truth, making things appear better than they are.  People in recovery know what I am talking about.  To everyone except a select few, the years of active addiction are often described as “not that bad,” at least compared to other people who could be mentioned. When asked about their recovery today, the most frequent response is “great,” or “my life could not be better.”  Denial, the most obvious symptom of addiction, can easily become the mask behind which we hide the truth.  Life is hard, imperfect, and there are always struggles – which does not mean that it isn’t wonderful and precious.

Recently I received a book mailed to me by the publisher:  Sober Mercies by Heather Kopp.  The subtitle is “How love caught up with a Christian drunk.”  I set the book aside, fearing that it would be like some others I have read that provide a bit of personal sharing and then launch into a sermon that is far too long and much too self-righteous.  A few nights ago I picked up the book, ready to give it a quick scan before confining it to an obscure corner of my library.  Boy, was I wrong!

I spent the next day with this beautiful little book and want to recommend it to everyone in recovery — or hoping to find the road to recovery.  Heather Kopp does not make her story pretty, she does not make herself look like a saint who by some accident lost her way, and she does not pretend that she has all of the answers.  What she offers is an honest description of a journey through addiction into recovery.  Along the way, Heather embraced true humility, and is brave enough to share her thought, fears, failings and faults with her readers.  Through this honesty she helps us reflect on the important questions that must be tackled by everyone seeking lasting sobriety.  The book is filled with wisdom, but we see it in Heather’s growth and healing, not through lecturing or a presumption that she has discovered “the cure.”

Heather Kopp is a Christian and she speaks about her faith.  The book discusses the importance of discovering and trusting a “higher power.”  The reader is able to share in Heather’s struggle to understand who God is and how he intervenes in her life.  As the story unfolds, we see God travel from Heather’s head to her heart.

I encourage you to buy this book.  Read it and share it with others who are in need of recovery, or who have begun the journey and want to see it to the end.  Because this story is REAL it has great power.   Let it touch you as it touched me.

You can find Sober Mercies on Amazon or at Heather Kopp’s website — which includes some excellent articles.  www.soberboots.com

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