Posted in Christianity, Essay, Terri Stewart

Creating room and transformation at Christmas …

800px-Nativity_tree2011Originally published in Rethink Church. Published here with permission.

IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!! I hear this echoing in my head from years past—from my children’s years, from my own cries, and from my crazy Aunt Nancy (I love you!) who still calls me at zero-dark-thirty to wish me a Merry Christmas.

What I also remember is making lists of what I have bought for the in-laws to make sure everybody got the same quantity and the same monetary value. Making lists for my children so one was not valued in presents more than the other. And stressing out over finding that “perfect gift” for my oldest son who seemed to be unable to express desire for anything. ANYTHING. That is stressful.

But maybe he had the right idea all along! He was unattached to things.

Non-attachment to things of this world is a value greatly revered by the world’s great traditions. What if we slowed down, let non-attachment suffuse the Christmas* season, and began again? What would that mean? What would it look like in our lives?

What if we emptied our lives of the values of materialism, comparison to others, and over-abundance and instead filled it up with the values of spiritualism, self-inventory, and enough? What if we took a journey of emptying rather than filling?

The dichotomy is pretty stark. Empty vs. full. Nobody really wants to run around on empty or having nothing. But there is a trick. By slowing down our lives and refocusing our lives, we can begin again with an attitude pointed towards spiritualism, self-inventory, and being satisfied with enough. Adopting these three counter-cultural traits, creates freedom for new things to happen.

Simplifying creates room for more!

More what? More interior room to listen to that which calls you. More room to see those around you. More room to understand great joy. And more room to feel the world’s great grief. After listening, seeing, understanding, and feeling, there is one more thing—by simplifying, there is more room to offer great love in action to a hurting world.

By emptying, we create room. By making room, the possibility of personal transformation is created. By being transformed, the possibility of action is created. By committing acts of love, mercy, and justice, the possibility of world renovation is created.

And before long, we who were emptied have been filled with love.

Chaplain Terri Stewart

*Christmas season in the secular sense of the word as that time from the day after Thanksgiving to January 1.

©2013, essay, Terry Stewart, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Jeff Weese via Wikipedia and under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at, and  To reach her for conversation, send a note to


The focus of "The BeZine," a publication of The Bardo Group Beguines, is on sacred space (common ground) as it is expressed through the arts. Our work covers a range of topics: spirituality, life, death, personal experience, culture, current events, history, art, and photography and film. We share work here that is representative of universal human values however differently they might be expressed in our varied religions and cultures. We feel that our art and our Internet-facilitated social connection offer a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters, and not as “other.” This is a space where we hope you’ll delight in learning how much you have in common with “other” peoples. We hope that your visits here will help you to love (respect) not fear. For more see our Info/Mission Statement Page.

10 thoughts on “Creating room and transformation at Christmas …

  1. My church did a study on the book “Unplug the Christmas Machine” one year. It was eye-opening to find out what “normal” Christians were doing during the holidays. I was stalwart in teaching my kids that there is no Santa, which was my way of trying to keep Christmas holy, but that was a very controversial position. And not necessarily ‘right’. A better thing, as you suggest, is to slow down and ask yourself what is important and add more of that.


    1. I was amazed and appalled this week when I saw a clip of Sarah Palin saying, “I love the commercialization of Christmas, because it spreads the Christmas cheer.” It made me go *head*desk.* We did the Santa story in our house until it just seemed the right thing to say that there is a deeper meaning to Santa and now you are of an age to understand. Then we told the story of the incredible man and how the Santa spirit continues. So we continue now, still, with Santa gifts. But Santa gifts have always been for the whole family, primarily. Like board games and such. Thanks for your thoughts!


  2. I always enjoy your words, your wisdom. I am materialistic. I like things. I like money. But I like it passing through my hands to others as much I like spending it on myself. And its just that for me. Something that passes through my hands. It can benefit me, my family, someone whom I do not know, someone halfway around the world or someone just a mile away. I feel as though it is a gift, and I guess a bit of a test as to what I will do with it.


    1. I like things too! Especially things that have lots of color and sparkle. *blush* But it may come down to attachment. Things over people and stuff like that. It sounds like you are not choosing things over people, but choosing things and people. There’s a world of difference.


  3. So unfortunate to see any feast day of any religion stripped of the sacred, secularized and made material. This one is particularly egregious and embarrassing, especially here in the states. Rather disrespectful, I’d say. Thanks for this much needed reminder, Terri.


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