I texted a group of mom friends this question: During the crazy holiday season, how do you create peace and wholeness – shalom – for your family?
One mom responded that she needed some time to think about it and would get back to me; another sent a series of emojis: a wine glass, a champagne bottle and an umbrella drink. (Yes, sometimes getting through the holidays includes a little spike in one’s eggnog.) Overwhelmingly, though, the thread was initially met with silence – “Silent Night” silence.
I don’t blame them. To be totally transparent, I reached out to my mom-squad because I didn’t have a great answer myself.
I stared at that empty text thread for a while and thought about my favorite Christmas song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I love the idea that at the holidays our hearts can be light, our days can be golden. But for many, Yuletide doesn’t mean our troubles are out of sight. The Christmas circus actually carries conflict closer to home.
And while I’ve never believed shalom means conflict or chaos free – at least on this side of heaven – I do think it means that we strive for unity, for reconciliation, for peace, for understanding and love in the midst of pain. It means we proactively live for beauty in brokenness.
So that brings me back to the question looming on my text thread: How do we actually make room for peace and wholeness in the midst of very real stress, pain and loss? How do we teach that to our children?
At last, the text-silence was shattered as responses began to pour in:
One mom wrote that she schedules several “appointments” during the holidays for reflective family readings by the fireplace. “It warms our bodies and souls,” she texted. “It slows down my three little busy-bodies and keeps us together as a family.”
Another said that peace for her family means having financial peace of mind. Each January she sets aside $25 to $30 a month for holiday gifts. When December rolls around, she isn’t strapped for cash.
A third mom added, “Routine anchors us. No matter what else is going on during the holidays, we have dinner as a family. These aren’t always peaceful – I mean, I have two toddlers. But it’s something stable, something we count on. Gathering around the table, being together; this is what matters most.”
From there, the messages continued:
- Make a Jesse Tree
- Give through Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion, International Justice Mission or A21
- Create something to share with others
- Look at holiday lights
- Shop online so you aren’t fighting crowds
- Shop mindfully through fair trade organizations
- Serve your city
These ideas reminded me of my own family’s tradition, so I added it to our thread: “Each night during Advent, we turn off all the lights, light a candle and read the birth of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke. Then we whisper these words as a family: ‘The world is in darkness and chaos, but we are waiting for the light of the world.’ This is our moment to stop and create awe and anticipation in the midst of the crazy.”
We are harried. We are hurried. We are worried. We are grieving losses. Licking emotional wounds. None of our troubles will be miles away just because it’s December. Even so, moms, we can create wholeness, in parts.
We teach it to our children when we remind them to fight for justice on behalf of others. We impart peace to our families during those glimpses of stillness by the fireside. We declare the reality of shalom as we celebrate the sacred wonders of the holidays, and as we teach our kids to anticipate the arrival of Emmanuel, God with us, on Christmas morning.
So to you and your own mom-squad – keep sharing ideas. Keep hanging those stars upon the highest boughs; because the holiday routines that you work so hard to achieve, well, they are bigger than tradition. They are northern stars in the darkest night, pointing us all to hope – reminding us to strive for peace and wholeness, now and in the days to come.
Aubrey Sampson the mom of three crazy-hilarious sons, which is also to say that she spends most days in her pajamas drinking entirely too much coffee. On the days she manages to get dressed, Aubrey is an event and retreat speaker, a blogger, and the author of Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul (Zondervan, 2015). She and her husband, Kevin, just planted their first church in the Chicagoland area. You can find and follow Aubrey at aubreysampson.com and @aubsamp.