Chaos at Christmas

by Mary

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Here’s the truth …

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart” (John 14:27 NLT).

I vividly remember spending a few moments alone in the living room on Christmas Day each year when I was a little girl.  I would wander there, away from my relatives who were all talking at once in neighboring rooms of the house, and would sit quietly amidst valuables that should be seen but not touched.  Unable to stop myself, I would pick up the ceramic music box angel, twist the wind-up mechanism, and listen to Silent Night.  And I never minded when it would slow down the way wind-up music boxes often do when they need to be rewound.  In fact, I enjoyed the slowness of the harp sounds and would take deep breaths and allow the stillness to wash over me.  It was probably the best part of my Christmases, but I never even realized why I made that my own little tradition until much later in life.

I was asked at my church to speak about what Christmas means to me the day after December 25th a few years ago.  What immediately came to mind was the truth—Christmas means chaos.  That’s what I have always known it to be.  I not only come from an Italian family, but the men worked at steel mills and were used to shouting to be heard at work. So even when everyone was getting along, Christmas was always LOUD!!  Way too much food appeared on my plate, and gift wrappings whizzed by my head as people tore through their presents.  I grew up with it, so it’s all that I knew, but I never realized just how loud and chaotic it was until I saw it through my quiet husband’s eyes.  Talk about throwing a poor bunny rabbit into a house full of hyenas! 

It really hit me when we were driving to church that day after Christmas when I was expected to talk about it.  As we drove, my daughter was complaining that all she wanted to do on Christmas was concentrate and strum her plastic Barbie guitar, but she couldn’t because of the noise.  Without missing a beat, my husband said to her while looking at her through the rear-view window, “Honey, you’ll never be able to concentrate around Mommy’s family.”  At that moment, I was instantly a child again and realized why I used to escape to the living room!  It was my own desire to concentrate all those years ago. 

So I marched into church and talked about chaos.  That’s what Christmas means to me.  And I shared my hunger for peace, even as a child. 

Jesus came to bring us peace, but we often do everything we can to fill our lives with anything but peace:  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give” (John 14:27 NLT).  Why can’t we just be happy with the peace that Jesus offers?  Instead, at Christmas time, we jump right into the chaos with everyone else, searching all over town for the perfect gifts, perfect cards, perfect decorations, perfect food. And if we can’t find them, we create them! 

If you remember my post the other day about toffee (one of those things I create in my efforts to achieve “perfect” food), you recall that toffee needs time to cool, to rest, in order to become strong and edifying to those who try to eat it.  No one would want to be fed a spoonful of the burning liquid as it gets poured from the pan right after it has been boiled.  Way too hot and without the crispness that makes it enjoyable and tasty.

The same goes for trying to find the calm in the chaos.  Traveling on a donkey for miles and miles while nine months pregnant, only to find that there wasn’t even any room at the Inn in Bethlehem when they arrived, poor Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into this world surrounded by their own chaos. God, however, didn’t let their circumstances define the moment for them.  He sent an angel to some shepherds nearby to alert them of the glorious thing that just happened, and “the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them” (Luke 2:9).  I couldn’t help but notice that this delivery of the news wasn’t given until nighttime when all was calm and the shepherds were merely keeping watch over their flock. They were still.  In the stillness, the gift of peace can be received. 

It’s unfair, then, to ask God for peace yet continue being a hamster on a wheel.  We must strive for peace ourselves and meet God there.  Jesus Christ was born for you and for me so that He could experience death in our place.  As a result, we are granted eternal life when we place our trust in Him.  We must go to the living room on Christmas Day and take in the beauty of the gift that has been given to us.  And in that stillness—that time of reflection—we will be full.

… and that’s the truth as I know it!

Merry Christmas!

Mary