By: Christine Wood
I was making conversation in the foyer after the church service.
“Looking forward to Christmas?” I asked in a cheerful voice. I knew Amanda, but not well. I hadn’t planned on a long conversation, just a friendly passing hello.
As soon as I mentioned Christmas, Amanda began to tear up. “The kids will be with their Dad this year.”
That’s right. I had forgotten about the divorce that had proceeded through the year. It had been messy, and now it was finalised, there were ongoing ramifications for her family life. Amanda’s Christmas was going to be a difficult one, alone for the first time.
After spending some time crying and praying with Amanda, I began to ask the question more sensitively and listen more closely to the answers.
“It’ll be the first Christmas since mum passed.”
“My daughter won’t be joining us for Christmas this year.”
“Things have been tight since John lost his job. I don’t know what presents we will be able to afford.”
Everyone had a story. Sure, Christmas was a time of celebration and joy, but there was underlying anxiety and pain. All the tinsel in the world can’t mend a broken heart or a strained relationship.
And I can relate. I know what it’s like to approach Christmas with a mixture of excitement and secret dread. Even without a major life crisis to deal with, Christmas is a stressful time for me.
I have a typical family made up of a diverse bunch of people who love each other but don’t always get along. I love it when we get together. It’s mostly fun, but there is always a bit of awkwardness mixed in.
There are family members who choose not to join in. There are conspicuous gaps. And I’ve never gotten used to the gaps.
Apart from the relational stress, I often struggle to manage my time well over the holiday season. There are extra events and commitments, shopping and cooking and decorating. It’s a busy season, and I get tired, which makes my anxiety flare up. I get teary. I get cranky, snapping at my family for nothing in particular because the table setting doesn’t look like I imagined. And then I feel guilty for snapping. More tears.
Some years I just want Christmas to be over.
The irony is, the reason for Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who came to bring us peace. Christmas doesn’t have to be a time of stress, conflict, over-spending and over-indulgence.
I wrote All is Calm to celebrate the peace Jesus came to give. Because even though tinsel can’t mend a broken heart, Jesus can. We can celebrate the power of Jesus to heal our brokenness and invite His peace into our hearts and our holiday.
The devotionals in All is Calm take a fresh look at all our favourite people in the Christmas story. We admire Mary and her willingness to obey God’s call on her life. We celebrate the shepherd’s excitement as they share the good news the angels announced. We marvel at the wise men and their willingness to bow down and worship a foreign baby. And we look at Jesus, the message He preached, the life He lived, and the sacrifice He made.
The story of Christmas transforms our anxious hearts when we trust in Jesus, the bringer of peace. Despite the chaos in our circumstances, our fear and anxiety, the pain in our relationships and the regret in our story, Jesus can fill us with peace.
All is Calm is available to order in paperback or for Kindle today. Why not get one copy for yourself and another as a gift for someone you love this Christmas?