For various reasons, my holiday season is going to look nothing like my past several holiday seasons. I'm going through a personal crisis, one side of the family is dealing with the death of a loved one this year, and the other side of the family is navigating some central relationships that are struggling. Add to that, I'm not even hosting Christmas (long, long story) this year, a decision made about five minutes after last year's Christmas party. So this December looks different, and already feels different.
I could've taken two possible approaches. There was the woe-is-me/bah-humbug approach, where I would decide to not put up Christmas decorations and curl up in a ball until sometime in mid-January. And then there was the let's-look-at-this-as-an-opportunity approach, where this season unfolds like a blank slate and I could dig in and re-evaluate what really means something to me and what can fall away without being missed.
So a few days ago, my kids and I sat down. We wrote out everything we do from Thanksgiving through Christmas every year, and then we wrote down what was going to make this year different - what events and traditions we knew just weren't going to take place. It was sobering, I have to say. The three main events that we participate in, that have been years-long traditions, aren't happening, and it is sad, and some grieving needs to take place.
But we talked through those lists and we shared what we love to do each year. We love doing some kind of service together, so we decided on that. And the kids wanted to make sure that they spent at least some time with their cousins over Christmas break, so I'm going to do whatever I can to make that happen. And we all love the tradition of Christmas Eve at church and taking back roads home to look at Christmas lights, something we've been doing since they were little. And we talked about if there were anything else new that they'd like to add, and I committed to put up the tree even though a part of me wants to pretend it's already February.
And you know what I realized? I don't have to fear or dread change. I can choose to embrace the shaking up of traditions, especially if some of them weren't all that meaningful in the first place. And this can be a really special time where I let my kids speak into how we spend our time and share what's really important to them. I wouldn't have had this conversation with Sara and Jack had all these changes not been taking place, but now I know what matters to them about the holidays.
So now, with fewer obligations, I can be more intentional about bringing peace into our home on cold, cold nights, and I can remind them without all the rushing around that Christmas isn't really about running from one place to the next but about a God who loves us so much that He let His Son come down here to surprise us with his humanity and his God-ness and to bring not just peace on earth, but peace to each one of them, no matter what we're going through right now.
And, can I remind you, that He offers that peace to you as well? Just as He did with Mary who was taken aback by startling news…just as He did with Joseph who had totally different plans for his life…just as He did with the shepherds in the field who were met by an angel of the Lord. It all matters to Him what you're going through, but no matter what it is, Emmanuel - God with us - offers Himself to you as your peace.
Ó Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2010
Elisabeth is the author of He Is Just That Into You: Stories of a Faithful God who Pursues, Engages, and Has No Fear of Commitment (WinePress), In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother's Heart (Xulon), and Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom's Weary Soul (Kregel). All of her books can be purchased on Amazon or through her website at www.elisabethcorcoran.com.
Check out her book trailer for He Is Just That Into You at http://www.vimeo.com/7093233.
Visit her blog at http://elisabethcorcoran.blogspot.com/.
You can follow her on Twitter at ekcorcoran or friend her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/people/Elisabeth-Klein-Corcoran/1301703500.
Watch Elisabeth and her friends spread hope through Africa with Samaritan's Purse at http://www.vimeo.com/7919582.