Yes, we had places to go. Yes, there were things to do. But my family was going to miss the true meaning of Christmas, and that was not okay. We are told that this is a season for spending and celebrating and eating and gifting. But as I looked at the faces of my children, I could see that we were leaving out the most important piece. I needed to make a choice: Keep the pace or find the peace. Peace only to be found by resting in God's presence.
Between cutting down our own Christmas tree, school expectations, homework, and events, my children were getting tired. We had eaten fast food one day too many, opting for a grab-and-go meal as we ran from place to place. And our own home stood barely decorated, with boxes strewn about, scenes half-staged, and none of us with the energy to see the task through. Do we just keep going? Or is there a choice that can change this day?
Picking up the phone, I canceled the events we were set to attend and headed to the kitchen to make a meal that would nourish our bodies in the midst of this mess.
With all screens off, I turned on some music and watched as my children began to unwind. Grabbing blankets and books, they curled up cozily and we settled in for the evening ahead. We needed time. And quiet. And a minute just to reflect. Psalm 46:10 instructs us, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” We needed the moments of stillness to refocus on our exalted God and his precious gift.
After dinner, we sat at the table and opened our Bible to read and remember. These verses, memorized by my children when they were preschoolers, were recited aloud again. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night.” I could hear their younger selves mixed in with their voices. And we could all connect again to the wonder of the story that we were seeking to celebrate in the first place.
My children’s voices continued. “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.’”And then silence. I could hear our breathing.
The good news that brings us great joy was real to us again. And sitting in the dining room, with the light of our advent candles flickering in the darkness, I knew that we were finding what was needful and what truly mattered. God's good story was for us. To bring us peace.
Perhaps like me you try to do too much during the holiday season and find yourself overwhelmed. Consider these questions as you work to navigate your hectic holiday schedule:
I remembered in that evening what I annually forget: that keeping the pace, doing every holiday thing, and attending each event does not necessarily help us celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
Sometimes, we have to release expectations in order to find the peace that was lavished upon us so long ago. Sometimes, parents must say that enough is enough and decide that it is time for the family to fall quiet, to remember, to reflect.
Then may we find ourselves awash in peace.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra