I Wish You a Peaceful Christmas

“I’m not going to wish you a merry Christmas. You can have a merry Christmas next year.”


Thank goodness she wasn’t finished yet.

“This year, you need peace. So may you have a peaceful Christmas.”



Okay, well that was different. Not at all what my ears are used to hearing on Christmas Eve eve.  But hey, nothing about this Christmas has been ‘normal,’ so why not. I’ll roll with it.

A peaceful Christmas.

She’s right, you know. She usually is. From little things like, “you should try getting a massage. It will be good for you,” to “you can have a merry Christmas next year.”  Still, it was jarring to hear something as unfamiliar as that, instead of the traditional greeting.

I ruminated on that statement all day Christmas eve, as I worked in my office at  the theatre, preparing patron and sponsor packets for First Night, counting buttons, answering emails – all in silence, in an attempt to find that ‘peaceful Christmas’ of which she spoke.

But the phone kept ringing, and emails kept dinging, and my darn intern kept asking ten thousand questions and putting errant apostrophes in all the wrong places….

Where was the peace?

I went to let the dogs out – and they barked, and pooped, and tussled on the floor, and the parrot squawked and flew up to the curtain rod, just out of my reach, and I spilled the dog food…

Where was the peace?

I went back to the house where I’m staying to get ready for church, and my stomach was in knots. The thoughts raced through my mind in headline-short bursts.

This isn’t right.

This isn’t right.

This isn’t how Christmas eve looks for me.

This isn’t my apartment.

This isn’t my bed.

These aren’t my decorations.

This church service I’m about to attend – It isn’t going to be right.

I haven’t been in a Christmas eve service in 5 years. The last time I went to a service, I was the one in the pulpit. The last time I just attended as a congregant, I was 16 years old. I don’t know how to do this. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.

I got there a bit early [parking can be a real pain in the pew right now, because of some construction near the church]and found a spot in a corner, sitting in the annex part of the chapel where I could see the screen but not really the people on the platform. Safety zone.

Or not.

I ended up sitting in the front row, working the projector, instead of safely tucked into the corner where I could escape easily.

Thanks Aija.

The lights were dimmed. Ok. This is right.

The pianist started to play ‘O Come Immanuel’ and sing in Latin. This is right.

Head nod from the preacher. Advance slide.


A brief moment of panic, but then, okay, they’re caught up. Okay.

And then the congregation started to sing.


Slide change.

Sing sing sing….wait….NO!!! NO!!!


Those are NOT the right words.

This is all wrong!

Click. Click. Click.

Sigh. The words are pretty, I guess….but they aren’t the right ones. They’re not the ones I know by heart.

I’ll just sit here and run projection. Screw it. Christmas already sucks anyway.

But I’m in the front row – so there’s no escaping eye contact without appearing REALLY REALLY rude, and besides, I have to keep an eye on what’s going on. So I listen.

And of course, what she says knees me in the spiritual guts like usual.

“Some peace is hard won.”


There’s that peace thing again.

How the HECK does she do that? How does she manage to know exactly where I already am and just GO THERE.

Pfft. God does that. I know this.

Just like when that phrase, “speak the truth, even when your voice shakes” kept coming up, and I knew something had to be done….this peace thing is a THING, apparently.

Some peace is hard won…..

Ugh. Don’t I know it.

“But I’m TRYING!”  I want to scream….but I can’t, because I’m in the first pew, so I just click, click, click, through the slides.

On the way out the door, Aija hugs me, and I feel myself start to lose the grip I have on my emotions.

Dammit. How does she do that?

I bolt before the tears fall, and get all the way to my car before I realize that my earring is gone.


I like those earrings. They’re my favorite. I guess that means I have to go back in.


“What are you doing?”

Looking for my earring. Square. Round blobby thing.

“I meant leaving so fast.”

Running away. It’s what I do.

Another hug.  I was determined not to cry, so I bit my lip.


I found the earring [thankfully. I’ve already had to replace them once because I lost one in that church] and left again. But instead of turning left out of the parking lot, I turned right and drove down the street to the children’s lake, parked my car at the Appalachian Trail lot, and walked to the water’s edge, where I plopped down on a bench, and promptly cried.

After a solid ten minutes of sniffling, I looked up. Alone in the darkness, I saw the beauty of the luminaries and that odd floating Christmas tree, which tonight, looked oddly beautiful reflecting off the glass-smooth water of the lake. The full moon shone overhead, and there wasn’t so much as a breeze.

All is calm. All is bright.

I wiped my face, and stared into the deep stillness for the longest time.

As I sat there breathing in the darkness, pierced by those evenly placed points of light, I felt it.


And I began to sing.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

It’s one of my favorites, not because of the melody [which is actually fairly dull, when I think about it], but because of the lyrics. I’ve always loved the idea of right prevailing, despite all the bad in the world.

Tonight though, it spoke to me differently – very personally –

I was ‘losing christmas’ because I wanted to hear my own equivalent of ‘those old familiar carols.’ I wanted things to be as they had always been – and they just….weren’t.

“And in despair I bowed my head:
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Crap. There go the tears again. So right. Where has the peace gone????

My voice cracked, but I have a little bit of song OCD, so I had to keep singing – I have to finish once I’ve started.

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;


God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.

God is not dead, nor doth he sleep…..

That line.

It had always just been a given for me before – sure. God’s not dead. [NO! He is alive! Sing with me – he’s livin’ in my hands *clap clap* he’s livin’ in my feet *stomp stomp*, etc etc]

Tonight though….

Nor doth he sleep.

I’ve felt very alone, spiritually, for a really, really long time now.

Maybe god was dead? Asleep? Never really there in the first place?

Pshht. I never really believed that.

I believe in god.

But we hadn’t been on speaking terms in a very, very long time.

And I felt forgotten.

Until tonight.

God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.

I sat, quietly singing that verse to myself over and over,

Fighting to believe it.

Struggling to accept it.

I was jolted back to reality by a group of people walking around the lake. I stopped singing, because really, who wants to look like the town crazy on Christmas eve?

“Merry Christmas!” They cheerfully chirped, as they passed.

“yes, I replied, “to you too.”

They continued their walk around the lake, and I went back to thinking.

Until suddenly, a woman from the group was standing in front of me.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“This sounds weird, but you look like you could use a hug. Can I hug you?”


She hugged me briefly, and then looked directly at my face.

“May you have a peaceful Christmas.”

And she ran off to rejoin her group.

A peaceful Christmas.

The stillness returned to the lake, and I stared across the water.

And as the carefully placed luminary candles flickered in the darkness, I felt it.


Everything is different now, and maybe that’s a good thing. So next  year, I’ll have a merry Christmas. This year, I had a peaceful one.


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