Call me crazy (it is only two days after Thanksgiving). Call me a hypocrite (the season of Advent doesn’t even start until tomorrow). Or just call me desperate to suck in as much Christmas joy as is possible this season. But the tree is decorated. And this year’s ornament of distinction is, you guessed it, a pickle.
Pickle ornaments aren’t anything new. They have been part of some families’ Christmas traditions since the late 1900s and may or may not have originated in Germany. You can read more about their history here. But it just seemed necessary that this pickled pastor’s first sober Christmas have a pickle on the tree.
I have no adult memories of a sober Christmas, so this year’s holiday is going to be a little different (to say the least). No egg nog, no hot spiced wine, no Kahlúa in my morning coffee, and no—under any circumstances—merlot. Merlot is not invited this year. Her name was a necessary deletion from my guest list.
But I do believe my sobriety will make for a very special Christmas. That is why I wanted to get the preliminaries out of the way early. I intend to spend the entire month of December staying focused on all things joyful: children’s laughter, dancing lights, and carols celebrating the birth of Jesus. Yes, I want Jesus to be front and center this year.
Now that I am not responsible to coordinate and deliver a spectacular season of worship experiences, I anticipate actually having the time to prayerfully reflect on the significance of our Savior’s birth—especially as I continue trying to reconcile my vocation, my faith, and my alcoholism.
I am going to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas every time it airs and let Linus preach to me. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Pickled P.” Indeed it is. Christmas is about forgiveness, about hope and restored relationship. Christmas is about the love of a God who still hasn’t given up on her people—even me.
Yes. This Christmas is going to be different. I am going to sing and laugh and pray like crazy. And whenever I lose focus and forget all that Christmas is meant to be about, I have a pickle on the tree to remind me. I am a servant of Christ who also happens to be a recovering alcoholic. Each and every day is cause for celebration and gratitude.