I Need a Silent Night

by Elizabeth

The pace of life in Phnom Penh can, all too often, be hurried and hectic. It’s not your traditional (imaginary) missionary life. It’s crazy, and it’s crazy-making, and I need to call a time-out. I need some space to breathe.

Over the last four months especially, a series of events have left me feeling dry and depleted. And now we’re smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, a season that creates its own frenzy. Lights! Tinsel! Frosted cookies!

Invitations pile up. Attendance feels mandatory at open houses and parties, cookie exchanges and carolings, even church services. These are all worthwhile and enjoyable activities. Even so, the expectations begin to mount. And for me, this time around, it all felt like a mountain I couldn’t scale.

When exactly did having Christmas cheer come to mean doing lots of Christmas activities? I don’t just want the appearance of Christmas cheer; I want Christmas cheer on the inside. But I’m not sure I can get it by doing Christmas the way it’s usually done.

So this year, I’m rebelling. I want a simple Christmas, and I’m taking drastic measures. I’m turning down invitations. I’m aware this might make me appear Scrooge-like and Grinchy. I’m risking it anyway. I’m sitting this season out. (On my couch.) I’m regrouping, retrenching, retreating. Clearing the calendar, saying no, and staying home.

In a culture where our worth is measured by how busy we are, I’m choosing to be countercultural, to go against the flow — or better yet, to drop out of the flow. For the sake of my sanity and for the good of my family’s emotional health.

So this Christmas season, you’ll find me sitting in my living room each evening, main lights dimmed but tree lights twinkling. You’ll find me singing my favorite Christmas carols with my family, resting in the news of the Christ Child and welcoming the peace He brings.

I’m losing myself in the marvel of the Christmas Story, in the wonder of the God-made-flesh, the One who dwelt among men. I’m ignoring the social scene and even the rush to buy presents, and I’m getting swept up in the mystery and majesty of the Nativity. I’m absorbing the Advent, and meeting God in the Messiah. I’m slowing down and savoring the story of our Savior.

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*Title inspired by Amy Grant’s song “I Need a Silent Night”

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8 thoughts on “I Need a Silent Night

  1. How apropos for me as I have a ticketed commitment on the 20th & two addition Xmas parties on same night. How am I supoosed to be in 3 places @ once??!!! Can’t even believe I have, mentally, been trying to orchestrate putting in an appearance b4 the New Theatre. Exhausted just from the thought!! So, Elizabeth, I’m just going to say thank you but no. Thanks for your encouragement!! Merry Christmas & may many souls come to Christ in ‘2015 here & world over. That’s all that matters anyway!! 🙏❤️

    • Merry Christmas to you too, Pam! I’m glad you gave yourself the freedom to say no 🙂 And I hope the 20th doesn’t completely do you in! Thanks always for your notes and comments. ❤

    • Yeah, lots of things sort of converged in this post, including recent book club conversations! And let me just say, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better through the book club 🙂

  2. I am sitting here crying my eyes out because this is EXACTLY what I needed to read this morning since I woke up at 5:30 with a million things on my mind and new invitations arriving last night. It is very hard to say No as a missionary especially in the missionary community. For me is it way harder here, in my new culture, to slow and refocus when I need to. Thank you for this post. It came right after a time of prayer and I feel like God has spoken directly to me. I hope you enjoy your lovely Christmas!

    • Thank you so much for sharing this story here. God is so cool! I’m so glad this came at a good time for you. I love hearing that He answered your prayer, and that He used a reposting at a seemingly random time to do it. But nothing is random with God! Love that about Him.

      And I agree, it is SO hard to say no in the missionary community. Praying this last week before Christmas is peaceful for you, and again, so thankful you shared your story of answered prayer here. Sending you hugs!!

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