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