Saturday, December 26, 2009

Finding Peace at Christmas

To say that Christmas isn't my favorite time of year would be an understatement. With a long history of December drama among extended family members and the stresses of overly busy schedules, endless shopping lists, and a good dose of seasonal affective disorder, it just gets worse and worse every year. Last year, I made it my goal to find ways to calm the craziness and craft a more peaceful Christmas celebration for our family. So what did I do? I went and had a baby 5 weeks before the holiday. Hmm.... maybe not the best way to introduce calm into our lives.

I'm learning that, for me, Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with December 25. I think that date on the calendar may have been corrupted beyond redemption by our cultural insistence to consume, consume, consume. So I'm giving it all up. I realize how much expectation I've put on that day, and I'm just letting it go. December 25 is going to be a stressful, emotionally charged day for the foreseeable future, and I'm not going to fight it anymore. What I'd like to do is find ways to spread out the celebrating. Make Christmas a whole month of special things. It will be my way of keeping Christmas in a way that extended family drama and long to-do lists can't touch. Perhaps finding joy and peace will come more easily this way.

There were a few moments this Christmas that were bursting with joy and peace, so I'm holding on tight to those tiny beacons:
  • Having my dearest friend, Rebecca, come from California for a week to help us recover from the chaos that our second child has introduced. She left us much better than she found us, with all our clothes and dishes washed, our Christmas shopping finished, and a menu and shopping list written out for Christmas dinner. She put love into action and served us better that we deserved - exactly what the Christmas story is all about.
  • Our first Christmas eve service with our family at Westminster Presbyterian Church, raising our voices together in verses of "Silent Night" as the soft glow of candles illuminated the faces of families we love doing life with.
  • Dancing with my son by the Christmas tree, hearing his little voice wish me a "Merry Mismas."
  • Singing carols to our children at bedtime. It didn't matter that we'd often stumble over the words once we got past the first verses of our favorites. It mattered that we were together, making joyful noise.
  • Rocking my baby daughter to sleep and thinking about that other baby of long ago. It's been a special blessing to have a newborn at Christmas time, as it makes more concrete the shocking reality that Jesus, creator of the universe, became so tiny, so vulnerable, all for my sake.
I'm so thankful for these simple gifts - a wonderful husband and beautiful, healthy children; a place to worship freely, and a church family who knows and loves us; most importantly, a God who loves me with reckless abandonment and who gave it all that I might find peace at Christmas and always.

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