Christmas Peace

Dear reader, it’s Christmas tomorrow, and I’m rebelling.

It has been a glorious rebellion. This will be my new December tradition, I think.

I have said no to pretty much everything this year. And yes to the very basic necessities: knitting, thinking, drinking coffee, and hanging out with my kids.

I said no to every church activity. Every. Single. One. Except the one I want to be a part of, which is tonight’s Christmas Eve service. It doesn’t feel like Christmas without a hug for my friends and family there. But I may have to miss it anyway because every single person in my house is coughing right now.

I’ve said no to the frenzied temptation to publish five new knitting patterns at my best sales time of the year. I thought about trying… but I knew I’d drive myself crazy with all that pressure. I’ll have to be the knitting designer who publishes things NOT in December. I’m working on a couple things, but the final push to get them ready early wasn’t worth the stress. Instead, I’m focusing on the fun of toying with new designs. To me, that isn’t work. It’s play.

Actually, now that I think of it, I’ve decided to let myself play this year. I’m done being the grown up who thinks she has to achieve all the Christmas goals in order to make the holiday special. I’ve let go of my own expectations (from my own childhood memories) of baking ten different kinds of cookies and hauling all the kids to the mall to shop. I shopped online instead. In my pajamas, with a cup of honey hot chocolate and a Farscape episode playing in the background. Glorious.

I’ve let go of all my old expectations, and it has been a delight. My kids are still entranced by Christmas and its anticipation. To my surprise, no magic has been lost.

In fact, as I’ve let go, I’ve found the peace of the season again. And I think I’m learning something. The magic of the season, for grown-ups, for me, was getting lost in the frenzy of creating the “perfect Christmas,” whether for myself or my kids. Instead, surprisingly, that holiday magic has reappeared to me in a new form as I’ve let go of perfectionism. As I’ve let go of busyness (a necessity to preserve my sanity), I’ve rediscovered peace. Once I let go of guilt over Christmas’ excesses, I realized I didn’t have to push God away all December out of shame. By accepting that Christmas is what it is — an imperfect, strange combination of celebrating the birth of the God of the universe and celebrating Merry Presents-and-Turkey-Tree Day — I’ve found peace.

God and I have kept on talking. I can tell Him about my frustrations with December, and even laugh about them now. He is my peace.

One of my favourite mantras from Celebrate Recovery (a re-Christianized version of AA for anyone with hurts, habits, and hangups) is “It is what it is.” Slowly, this idealist is learning to accept life as it comes, not in the way that I would have it, but as it is. In all its glorious messiness and contrariness. In the combination of greed and giving, of striving and peace, of heartbreak and joy.

In the strange story of a baby born in a smelly stable about 2000+ years ago who was actually God Himself come down to walk with us so we could know Him. In the incredible yet true message that all our striving can cease, that the Holy One Himself has taken on our sin and borne it away, that we are redeemed and yet still imperfect. Still living here in this grief-stricken, beautiful place, still longing for home, still making mistakes and hurting ourselves and each other… yet forgiven. And free. And given the wonderful gift of peace in the midst of it all.

This is my prayer for me. For you:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; knowing that You will make all things right if I surrender to your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next. ~Reinhold Neibuhr

And on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.

And, of course, refined-sugar-free hot chocolate:

1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa (the good stuff, if you can)

1 tablespoon of honey

a sprinkle of cinnamon (the real stuff, not the cheap cassia parading as cinnamon)

Stir together, then add a dash of boiling water and stir again until it’s all mixed together. Then pour in the rest of the hot water to fill your cup, stir, and add some cream. Mmmmm. Rich and dark and delicious.

(I sometimes make this as mint hot chocolate by leaving out the cinnamon and adding a drop or two of peppermint flavour. Yum.)

Merry Christmas, and happy Present-Turkey-Tree Day. 🙂

Amanda