Every December, I reach a point where the multitude of Christmas-themed events begin to take over my life. Squeeze these fun events alongside the normal chaotic balance of work and parenting, and that Christmas outing becomes just another “to do” on the calendar. I forget what we are celebrating!
I reached that point today. The people, the noise, the lights, the endless rich foods and drinks – it all left me overwhelmed! Some people thrive on this type of activity – I do not! I know enough about myself to understand that chaos – fun or otherwise – quickly leads to anxiety, which during the Christmas season leaves me forgetful of what we are doing it all for!
Friends and acquaintances will occasionally tell me they have enjoyed my writing. “How wonderful that I continue to write every single week,” they will say. I am deeply appreciative of such kind words! I say thank you, of course. But I always say that my writing is quite selfish – it is I who benefits the most!
I know my personality requires that I take time to escape and reflect. This commitment to write every single week forces me to step aside from whatever chaos I feel (whether it is real or created in my head) and center myself on where God is present and how I am invited to show God’s love to the world.
So on this Sunday, I skipped an adult group study at church to step away from the world and write. The “I must be everything to everyone” in me felt guilty. But I recognized that I required time – and I gave myself permission to take it! That one hour was not about me being mom, employee, daughter, church member or friend – it was simply about being quiet in the presence of God to pray, focus, write and reflect.
I tucked myself in the corner of our church sanctuary. Only a few people noticed my presence. The soft lights on the altar were comforting, and the words “Hope, Peace and Joy” were displayed on the wall to remind me what we truly celebrate during this Christmas season. What joy when we acknowledge that the most important gift is God’s gift of love through Jesus Christ, who became present with us as humble servant, Lord to all. Ah, yes! What amazing joy!!
As I look at the calendar for my upcoming week, it seems every minute of each day is filled with events: Christmas program, dance performance, church meetings and our mid-week service, gift buying and a visit to Santa, all on top of this mountain of work sitting on my desk that I can’t seem to crawl out from under. Every day – from the first sound of that alarm clock to the moment my head hits the pillow at night – will be filled with activity. If I’m not careful, that activity will quickly be followed by chaos, anxiety, panic, and resentment.
So here’s permission for myself… In the middle of this human-made chaos, I must stop! I must allow my eyes to close and my breathing to slow; listen to the rhythm of my heart and re-center on the joy and hope that comes from knowing the love of Christ through God’s gift of relationship and God’s promise to give unending love and unconditional grace. When I stop and remember this, then I am free to share this great gift with others. And that is what it truly means to celebrate Christmas!