One Christmas morning at 12:15 a.m., I sat on the stairs in our living room, holding back tears.
The presents were wrapped. The stockings were stuffed. The casserole was in the refrigerator, ready for our breakfast, only six hours away. The children were sleeping with sugarplum dreams, and my husband was snoring.
But I was exhausted. Physically and emotionally spent before Jesus’s birthday celebration.
On the perch of my carpeted stairs, I could see evidence of my efforts to create a glorious Christmas morning for my family. But I couldn’t hold back my pain any longer. The pain I had tried to push back with weeks of frenzied activity.
I recalled decades of painful Christmas mornings, as a child of divorce stretched between two households. My husband had also endured many painful childhood Christmases. When we got married, our hopes were high for better holidays. But our extended families were still broken and Christmas gatherings were still painful.
The past few years had been painful ones in our marriage too. I feared for our future.
I felt like I was the glue holding our family Christmas together. I used every sticky method I could grab — the tape of decorating cookies, the glue of light displays, the binding of Christmas parades. I couldn’t remember ever experiencing a conflict-free, pain-free Christmas. Every glittery activity seemed to offer hope for just one happy Christmas.
Desperately I tried to create a Christmas for me and my husband that hadn’t existed in our pasts. A Christmas memory for our children that didn’t involve confusion, drama, and hurt.
And if I was being honest, I wanted to create one more happy memory just in case our marriage fell apart.
That’s when my tears fell. I cried out to Jesus: “Lord, I know this is your birthday. But does anything I do matter? Does any of this matter to you?”
Jesus spoke gently to me. He said, “I am the Prince of Peace.”
When I heard the Prince of Peace speak, I felt the peace I had been missing in all my striving.
I had known Jesus since I was a little girl. But until that moment I hadn’t invited Jesus into my Christmas celebrations. I invited Him in by saying, “I hand this Christmas over to you, Lord. I’m sorry for trying so hard. It’s yours to handle now.”
Then He extended invitations to me . . .
I accepted His invitation of peace — perfect peace that the world (or even family) cannot offer.
I accepted His invitation of healing — lasting healing I cannot generate from my own efforts.
I accepted His invitation of love — unconditional love that does not require perfection on my part.
I accepted His invitation of surrender — He is the glue that holds us together, so I can let go.
Since that time, our family Christmases have not been perfect, but they have been peaceful. When I put Jesus at the center of our Christmas, the other pieces fell into place.
Now I carve out extra time in Jesus’ presence before Christmas. I spend the first ten minutes of my December mornings just with Him, so I can enjoy His company in the busy season. In those quiet moments, He showers me with His love and rubs healing balms over my painful past.
If the presents don’t get wrapped, I still have peace with Jesus.
If the decorations aren’t perfect, I still have peace with Jesus.
If my extended family gatherings aren’t peaceful, I still have peace with Jesus.
The Prince of Peace gives me “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and my heart and mind is guarded in Him during this Christmas season.