I feel heavenly peace today as I watch the snow fall outside my window while listening to the hiss of the woodstove. Add a cup of tea and a copy of Jan Karon’s Mitford stories (like A Light in the Window) and it’s so cozy.

Like the Mitford folks, we also long for family and belonging in a gentler setting. Yet, the holidays can be a difficult time for those who have lost loved ones or have divisions in their family. We can look at the quiet scenes on Christmas cards and read idyllic Christmas stories and wonder how we missed that life.

Life isn't always peaceful. Some would say it’s never peaceful. Yet, Christmas reminds us of the Prince of Peace who came to reconcile us to God. When we have room for Him, peace reigns even in the midst of our chaos.

Prepare Him Room

December is here and we are knocking on the door of a new year. I’ve done a bit of holiday planning—in my head at least. I got my first Christmas card in the mail—a telltale sign that I’m not prepared for Christmas at all, at least in the practical sense.

December can bring out the angst in people. Rushing, driving, shopping, planning…feeling like they’ll never catch up. The neighbor’s house has been lit like K-Mart’s parking lot for days and I haven’t managed to put my artificial wreath on the door. A friend has been baking cookies and putting them in the freezer since before Thanksgiving and I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight.

I realize comparisons are not healthy. I am not my neighbor. I am not my friend. I am me. And Christmas, My Style is what I am doing this year. I may not be sending hundreds of Christmas cards (just a few mailed to date) or baking all kinds of yummy treats (not good for the waistline), but I’m simplifying and hoping not to rush through December.

The first Christmas was like that too. For hundreds of years the prophets proclaimed and set the stage for the Messiah’s coming—their words said to follow a star in the east; a baby to be born in Bethlehem; born of a virgin; found in a manger. His name will be Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace—God with us. Emmanuel.

I wonder if they were ready for his arrival. Did life cloud the signs? If the events we read about in Luke and Matthew are any indication, stress was a problem then too. Mary, pregnant out of wedlock; Joseph wanting to divorce her; the stares from the village; traveling to Bethlehem for the census; no room in the inn for Mary to give birth. This was definitely not idyllic.

In the midst of the chaos, God’s plan unfolded. The Shepherds told of heavenly hosts and discovered an infant in a feeding trough just as the angel said. Anna and Simeon recognized Jesus in the temple after his birth. And, Mary pondered all these things in her heart.

Jesus. Born as a baby, he lived quietly as a carpenter’s son until the fullness of time.

Prophets foretold. People waited. Jesus came. And life went on while Mary and Joseph focused on raising the Son of God.

Focusing on Christ in Christmas

As I prepare, I’m taking steps to keep my focus simple. Here are a few things I did to keep from allowing the chaos of the Christmas season to take over my life and keep me from pondering all that the birth of Jesus means.

  • Rather than getting caught up in the frantic shopping, I did my gift buying online. This enabled me to ship directly to family members who live out of state.
  • I made some Sugar Cookie and Cranberry Biscotti mixes using mason jars. They look festive and they were fun to put together. These handmade gifts bring a homey feel to my day.
  • I “wrapped” gifts using festive gift bags and pretty tissue. Not only are they pretty but I can recycle them. My back thanked me when I didn’t need to stand for hours cutting, wrapping, taping and tagging my gift items.
  • And, most importantly, I’m reading the Christmas story slowly so I can ponder its message.

I am being intentional, making room for the unexpected and watching for His wonders in the midst of my day.