The philosopher William James wrote, “Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune." I am a firm believer that denial of pain, especially trauma and grief, is one of the greatest causes of suffering. One does not have to wallow in pain to acknowledge one’s own hurt and sadness. Rather than weakness, it takes courage to admit things in our lives are not what we wish them to be. Once acknowledged, we can then move to acceptance of what we cannot control and devotion of our energy towards what is. If we remain in denial, we miss out on the good things still happening all around us.
This Christmas there is so much that is out of our control. Helplessness is a common feeling. So many of our normal rituals and holiday routines are unavailable to us. The holidays are difficult enough for people in grief to journey through, much more so during a pandemic. Acceptance of what we cannot change about our circumstances this Christmas can be a first step towards finding joy in anxious times.
The Christmas story we read each year in the Gospel of Luke offers us some perspective on acceptance. The familiar story begins with the words that Caesar Augustus had decreed all the world must undergo a census. Augustus, who took the title of god, made this decree in order to tax and control his empire. This meant everyone had to journey to their hometowns to register. We aren’t told of the disruption this caused Joseph and Mary, especially with her pregnant and near term, but we can safely assume this was difficult, even frightful. I don’t know for sure, but I like to imagine they found a way to accept their circumstances and press onward.
The events of that first Christmas night--shepherds bearing the declarations of angels to this couple with a newborn baby--revealed a truth about God’s presence in the midst of such a chaotic time. Despite appearances, Caesar Augustus was not in control of the world, God was. God was up to saving work that is good news for everyone.
Just as it was, that first Christmas, God is still up to saving work that is good news for us. Like Mary and Joseph, we can accept what we cannot change and carry on. When we do so, we will find ourselves open to new understandings of God’s grace. Despite appearances to the contrary, God is still in control of our world. Accept what you cannot change this Christmas, and devote your energy to seeing the goodness God is up to!
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851