Silent nights

Weary. That used to be my word for December. Yes, I know it doesn’t convey the true wonder of the season. But the days are hard and long, and by this time of year, I have 300-plus behind me. I just wish the year wouldn’t race past me and leave me feeling totally spent—and still coming up short.

Each year starts with an opportunity and a promise. I always start with great goals: I’m going to lose 15 pounds, we’ll save X amount of money, we’ll carve out more family time outdoors, I’ll earn that promotion, etc. But as the momentum of the year builds, I feel like I’m running a three-legged race blindfolded. Stress. Life. Work. Family. It’s a lot.

Then December rolls around and I drag my weary behind into the kitchen to bake and cook all the goodies that taste like Christmas. I take my skinny wallet to the store to buy Christmas. We put up decorations to the point that it looks like our house was in the path of a Christmas cloudburst. My family signs up for community outreach and volunteering to try to give Christmas. We watch Christmas movies and listen to Christmas music so that we can feel Christmas.

Then why do I still feel like I’ve missed Christmas?

Two Christmases ago, I heard this chorus on my car’s radio, and the tears flowed:

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night.1

That elusive silent night was exactly what my soul was craving. What I learned in that moment of teary contemplation is that I can’t do Christmas from empty. I can’t take a tired and depleted soul and expect it to pour out abundantly. I can’t expect the “season’s magic” to be enough to fuel me.

Now I plan those “silent nights” into the year. I’m learning to recognize when I’m depleted and weary, and the things I need to feel recharged. Thankfully, they’re pretty simple things:

  1. Quiet time. Time spent reading God’s Word, praying, worshipping in song.
  2. Enough rest. I cannot be perpetually tired.
  3. Basic fitness and care for my body. Health permits function.
  4. Human connection. I need to feel connected to my husband and children. I also need regular meaningful connection with people beyond my family.
  5. Some kind of “you are here” map in my head. I can’t feel totally lost.

Taking stock of these things on a regular basis helps me to not show up for Christmas spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. Actually, it helps me all through the year.

  1. Amy Grant, The Christmas Collection, 2008