Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Health Care and the Christmas Season

Over 2,000 years ago a miracle happened that changed the history of mankind with the birth of a baby boy born in a lowly, common animal stall. Can you imagine the scene? If you were the parent of a newborn and only had that kind of place to give birth, what thoughts would you have had about the safety of the baby, the medical attention you might need, the sanitary conditions, and more! How unbelievably dirty, and how surreal! Yet, the fate of men and women for all time changed in an instant at the exact moment when the tiny infant called Jesus, or Emmanuel, drew his first breath outside of his mother's womb.

Emmanuel!! God with us. Think about what those words mean. The all powerful Creator of all that is or has ever been, or ever will be, came to earth to live among the people--shepherds, soldiers, the wise and the foolish, common folk and the high and mighty. You. The Bible provides a New Testament narrative in the book of Luke, Chapter 2:1-20:

The Birth of Jesus:
v1)In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. v2)(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) v3)And everyone went to his own town to register.
v4)So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. v5)He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. v6)While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, v7)and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels:
v8)And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. v9)An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. v10)But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. v11)Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. v12)This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
v13)Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, v14)"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
v15)When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
v16)So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. v17)When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, v18)and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. v19)But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. v20)The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.'

Can you imagine the plight of a young, pregnant, unwed mother coming into a town in America during winter, claiming she's a virgin and is carrying God's child? If that happened today, according to AssociatedContent.com, in most towns and cities in America she might be ridiculed, gossiped about or taken to the nearest mental health clinic. It's doubtful that anyone would want to take her in, let alone her unemployed significant other, at any time of year, and most especially during tax time in an especially cold winter month and during a recession. But nevertheless 2000 years ago, give or take, that's exactly what happened, and likely to the same responses. For although people have come a long way in our history and knowledge since that time, there are some basic human reactions and interactions that haven't changed much, and that might increase in a recession. Back to that pregnant woman 2000 years ago. There wasn't much choice in her world at that time about whether or not she would continue her pregnancy. In many U.S. cities of today, however, that modern expectant mother, her questionable mental status, her age, the status of her pregnancy and her claims about the child's paternity, would cause considerable concern.

Lots of problems would come up surrounding the baby's birth these days, according to AssociatedContent.com. Those problems would begin almost immediately when the fireman, policeman or some compassionate stranger would arrive to help with the birth since the mother might not get to the hospital fast enough with contractions so close together. Shortly after the birth, however, Mary would be transported to the nearest medical facility. First would be the forms, then the medical bills and then the question about who will be able to pay them since Joseph is unemployed, and the mill in the town where he worked before their travels had laid off a bunch of workers, so the little family has no health insurance. Besides Mary and Joseph have been living together and haven't formally married, so there would be questions anyway about financial responsibility. A hospital stay to care for Mary and her baby would be expensive, especially since a birth in a barn might have subjected the child to infections and the mother to complications. The medical staff, however, would also be very concerned about Mary's state of mind because of her claims about giving birth to God's child.

Despite all the problems about the birth, according to AssociatedContent.com, there would be folks who would get suspicious, and maybe jealous, after hearing about the baby's birth. Wise men sometimes like to brag about what they know and perhaps would observe that they had found a very special, precocious child. On the other hand, they would be strangers and what would they know? Besides anyone drifting incense around would likely be considered to be some 1960's ex-hippie freak. Rural farmers would certainly be excited to be around when a baby is born and then learn that some day that child might take over and solve the problems of poverty. Still they too would be concerned about Mary's mental state, the hapless circumstances of her little family; and they wouldn't want some people to be shifty, lazy, and dependent on the system. The wealthy, well connected, some ministers and politicians would be gossiping about the event, especially the notion that a bunch of radicals had entered the town and were talking about a potential leader down the road who might remove them from their posts of power and prestige. They would probably decide to get together at some early date to make sure that this never happened.

At Christmas all over America people are now preparing to celebrate again the birth of baby Jesus that happened so many years ago in Bethlehem, according to AssociatedContent. How would another baby fare if he were born to some homeless, unwed mother in your town today? Would you love and accept him, give him food and medical care, not condemn his parents, and help the family to be self sufficient? Or would he and his family have to leave because our hearts aren't in our polite manners and public prayers?

Also, the Christmas holidays are a time when many people focus on others, according to GKHealth. You rush to shop and cook, spending time with your friends and family. It can be easy to focus so much on others during this time that you can lose track of your own health. In order to have the best Christmas you can, it is important to keep track of your health during the holidays, not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. There are several health concerns to keep in mind over the Christmas holidays:

1.) Large Amount of Depressed People at Christmas:
Christmas is a joyous time, but it is the number one time of the year for depression, some experts say. Some of the depression people experience over the holidays may be due to the fact that the Northern Hemisphere experiences winter and the bleak landscape and decreased daylight lend themselves well to depression. However, many people feel stress, both socially and financially, to have perfect holidays. People also spread themselves thin over the holidays, with work, family gatherings, shopping and parties. Keeping an eye on your stress levels, taking personal time to decompress and setting realistic expectations about what you hope to experience over Christmas can help your overall mental health.

2.) The Average Person Gains 5 Pounds Over Christmas:
Christmas is a time also of great consumption. Some studies have shown that some people can gain as much as five pounds from Thanksgiving to the New Year, and with obesity on the rise in the United States, this extra weight can aggravate all kinds of problems from diabetes to high blood pressure. With food everywhere during the holidays, with Christmas cookies, party spreads and Christmas dinner, it can be hard to avoid gaining weight. However, there are some ways to eat with your health in mind during Christmas. Take healthier, leaner snacks with you to work so you will be better able to avoid the treats people bring to work. Many people are more and more health conscious these days and will offer vegetable and fruit snacks at parties. Try to eat more from those platters than the cheese and cookie platters. Drinking some chicken soup, or even just a glass of water before eating that big Christmas dinner may help you eat less in the long run. Also, some studies have shown that people who brush their teeth immediately after eating will not return to snack later, reducing those holiday calories that can threaten your health at Christmas.

3.) Christmas Tis the Season to Get Sick:
Finally, because many people experience colder weather at holidays, they naturally stay indoors more. Add to this all the crowded places they go at Christmas time, from the mall to parties, they are exposed to far more viruses and germs than at any other time of the year. During Christmas time, it is important to get plenty of sleep and to stay hydrated to prevent the immune system from weakening. Excessive alcohol consumption, always a temptation at Christmas, can also weaken the immune system. During this time of the year, some find it helpful to take extra vitamins and to keep hand sanitizer in their desks, cars and maybe even coat pockets. Avoiding a Christmas cold will make the holidays so much brighter.

Remember not only why you celebrate during the Christmas season, but Whom. Jesus is the real reason for the season. When you start feeling overwhelmed or depressed, take time out to visit with the original Babe in the manger Who now listens to every prayer, feels every hurt, understands every emotion, sees every deed, and forgives all who ask in true heart felt faith. He knows what true gifts you need more than you do, and He can provide them if you only ask--strength, wisdom, peace, and more. You cannot buy what the real Gift Giver has, but His children have those gifts available whenever they need it. Seek the One who gives life and provides joy, not only for Christmas but all year long.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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