It’s just two days until Christmas. This year will be quieter than past years, since our dinner will be postponed until our son and his family return from spending the holiday with his in-laws. We used to have gatherings with larger numbers of relatives, but now we’re in that phase of life where our children have married and cousins have new traditions and shorter visits due to their adult work schedules that replaced long college breaks.
Besides the decrease in the numbers of gatherings, I haven’t baked a single Christmas confection since the adults in the family are on diets and our seven-month-old grandson isn’t eating cookies—not yet. There’s no need to keep working to perfect Christmas—the foods, the decorations, the magical memories because we’ve all moved on to a different place. Part of me feels like something’s missing, but a bigger part of me says, “This is the quieter holiday you’ve been wanting.”
There are still things to be done but I don’t feel the push to keep doing more. What I want this year is time for quiet. This reminds me that my favorite Christmas carol is “Silent Night.” I think the focus on a quiet night in a stable has a settling effect on me, partially because of my childhood growing up on a farm. I love the “all is calm all is bright” because so many times in the past the hype and intensity of holiday preparations have worn me down and I didn’t feel calm.
Over the years, I’ve attended many Christmas programs, worship services, and cantatas. Of all of them, the one that had the most lasting impression was the simplest. It was back when our sons were very young and we were trying to manage the busyness of the holiday while working in our professions. Our small Presbyterian church had a mid-week vesper-type service. The contemporary building had lots of windows that provided a great view of nature during Sunday morning worship but were a blackout of darkness on a December night.
We sat with little inside light and one lone, dark blue candle burning — the focal point of the altar. We sang a few quiet carols to the simple accompaniment of the piano, which was in sharp contrast to the continuous playing of Christmas songs on the radio. The minister gave a homily about our season of Epiphany—waiting with an expectant heart. Inside that room, gathered in that drafty church, the glitzy lights and holiday fanfare of shiny reds and greens that screamed out Christmas was far away. We sat together and watched the flicker of that dark blue candle. I left feeling settled and strengthened, ready to disregard the overstimulation of the holiday and follow the call into the long, hibernating nights of winter.
This year, when our family is not gathered like before at Christmas, I hope to draw into the silence of a blue candle, experience the calm, and breathe in deeply the quiet of the winter night. I want to exhale any trapped expectations from bygone holidays and accept with joy what is.
Whether you’re like me and having a more quiet, slimmed-down holiday or you’re in the bustle of many celebrations, may you take the time to feel the warmth of the flame of that blue candle, calling you to calm and making your Spirit bright.
Peace and Blessings to You All.
How About You?
How have your holidays changed over the years?
What are the things you miss? What are the new opportunities afforded by having time opened in your holiday schedule?
11 thoughts on “All is Calm”
Connie, You have captured the realism of Christmas. As an old no longer church musician, I can relate to all the Services you’ve attended. I don’t think any of the presentations of my career were more than an instrument of Hype. Now that time moves slowly and so do I, I do not miss the Hype. However, the Joy is there and kept in the place where I do enjoy it. The family is important always and can be doubled up in the Heart for warm memories. I enjoyed your “Calm” thoughts, only to wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas, with Joy and Happiness for the coming New Year.
Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your feelings as a former church musician. I’ve often thought that the church, with all its overly-practiced Christmas programs, adds to the stress and makes it hard for families to be calm. Glad you let go of the Hype but maintained your Joy. May you have plenty of that over the holidays.
Christmas Blessings to You and Yours,
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Busyness ebbs and flows. Some years my holidays are as you described; other years jam -packed. This year I will have 16 here but fun. Right now I type while cradling a five-month- old so this one -handed reply won’t be any creative opus. lol
Merry Christmas, Connie. Hope your new year is happy and blessed.
Hey Wendy, Thanks so much. Would you believe this afternoon I saw the movie Mary Queen of Scots. I partly went to see Scotland on the big screen! I know you, of all people, understand that! I’ve got a lot of history to brush up on but I loved being back in Scotland.
You enjoy your Christmas and hopefully we can plan to meet in the New Year!
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I plan on seeing that too! I’m so fascinated by Mary’s story. How did you like it? Another movie I’m really looking forward to is the romantic comedy “Love Me to Death”, written by Kathy Lee Gifford. She stars in it with Craig Ferguson and it takes place in Scotland. Not sure when it’s coming out but it looks so good!
Didn’t know about the Kathy Lee movie (I like Craig Ferguson!)–I’ll check that out. I think I liked Mary Queen of Scots–I just don’t know enough about the story. I’d like to learn more about her. There were lots of reminders of why I’m glad I didn’t live during that time period–in that culture.
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Love, love, love this post. You’ve outdone yourself with this one.
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Thanks so much for reading and for your encouraging words. Hope you’re having a calm and bright holiday season.
Best to You,
Wonderful post, and I hope your Christmas was equally calm and bright!
Our traditions have evolved with our oldest son’s divorce – children to be divided between homes/holidays means we were the first to bend. But, on a happy note, that has meant we host our family gathering first and, instead of the big heavy Turkey or Prime Rib dinner that takes all day to prepare, I prep and make ahead a host of appetizers and salads. Still some work to do, but less formal and the menu lends itself to a more relaxed evening of noshing, gift opening, game playing etc. Time marches on and things have to change ~ 2 things that remain the same are 1) I always use my Mom’s and my crystal and 2) the table is beautifully decorated as a tribute to my Grandmother who spent days doing so for us. Little touches from my past that our family now counts on as part of the “magic.”
And, after all the chaos and commotion, I love to enjoy the quiet of sparkling tree lights and calm beautiful Christmas music in the background — Liona Boyd’s Classical Christmas guitar as an example, no shrieking Mariah Carey over here!
Thanks so much for reading and responding.
I love hearing about how your family’s tradition has changed over the years. I understand bending for changes and like how you’ve taken advantage of making things simpler in some ways, but keeping those wonderful traditions of your Mom and Grandmother living on.
It’s good to come to that point of knowing what you love and what’s really important.
Best to You for a Wonderful New Year!