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Christmas Day: The Call to Live with What Is at Hand

Christmas Day: The Call to Live with What Is at Hand

December 25, 2022

Luke 2:7: And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

One of my favorite writing teachers, the late William Stafford, said that we could all write a poem a day if we lowered our standards enough. He then encouraged his students to do just that—to lower their standards and to write a poem each day using whatever material they had at hand.

Stafford knew that an insistence on perfection can inhibit writing to the point that no writing gets done at all. I think the same is true for many situations. Insisting on perfection can get in our way. Stafford’s challenge then would be to lower our expectations and work with—or even just be with—whatever is at hand.

And so, this Christmas, here’s a suggestion: Give yourself the gift of lowered expectations. Make do with what you have, whether it be a manger or a mansion. Be satisfied with where you are, whether it be a stable or a tropical island. Speak kindly to whoever is around you, even to strangers, and especially to anyone you take for granted and anyone you might find less than perfect. We are all suffering from fatigue. Many of us are experiencing anxiety and depression. But if we can turn down our requirements for a perfect Christmas (or New Year’s Eve, or any other aspect of life), if we can give up the idea of the perfect gift, or perfect companion, or perfect meal, or perfect gathering or card or thank you note—then maybe we can make a space in our hearts for an imperfection that includes silence, wonder, appreciation, and rest.

And maybe we too can write a poem a day.

Peace to you this holiday season and throughout the coming year.

—Angier Brock


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