One Tuesday morning, a first grader named Tommy came to our virtual learning center at Westbury United Methodist Church and put his backpack down at his table. Doesn’t seem like something I’d remember months later except for the fact that he then laid down on the floor and started to cry. Right there in the middle of the gym filled with Houston Independent School District (HISD) students signing into their virtual classrooms.

I still don’t know what the underlying sadness was about, but when I sat down next to him and asked him what was wrong his answer was simply, “I need to peace out for a minute.”

It was the start of the day, in the middle of a long week, in the middle of a longer year and six-year-old Tommy needed a moment of peace.

I don’t know exactly how many people for whom this story might resonate, but I suspect I’m not the only one.

I suspect that celebrating Christmas may be challenging for a lot of people this year, and for a lot of different reasons.

For some there are feelings of loss and grief as we remember loved ones who aren’t around. Some are far from family and wish to be closer. Some are close to family that is constantly fighting.

Whatever the reason, I don’t think we talk about it enough. But what if this year is different? What if we stop trying to muddle through? What if we stop, get close, and peace out? Years ago, when I was burned out and exhausted, I remember reading this passage from one of Jesus’ sermons:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 The Message.

I’ll never forget how it felt to receive those words as a prayer at the moment I needed to hear them the most.

So come close, I’d like to offer you a kind of Christmas prayer. Here we go.

I pray for peace in you and through you and about you. I pray for glimmers of reconciliation. I pray for bad jokes and for the kind of laughter that makes you want to whoop and pound the table a time or two. I pray for friends who become family and I pray for family to become friends.

And I pray for God to be close to you this Christmas in ways you never could have expected.

Rev. Katy Sabayrac is the Family Ministries Director at Westbury United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. She and the rest of the staff would love to have you come worship with them any Sunday.

A Closer Christmas is brought to you by the Communications Department of the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. To be considered as a future blogger, please contact Shannon W. Martin, Director of Communication at Click to email.