Your Christmas Is His Own
It’s almost cliché now isn’t it, that Christmas isn’t really the most wonderful time of the year? Between all the extra shopping, cooking, cleaning, family gatherings - and all of it right at the blessed start of flu season, December can be enough to push even the most stable person over the edge.
And if that weren’t enough, you get to spend time with your family, extended and otherwise. You remember them, don't you? Aunt Molly, who insists on family photos right before your kids’ bedtime. Your mom, who wants everyone dressed to the 9s for Christmas dinner, even though you’ll be eating on paper plates because no one has a full set of dishes. Uncle Jeff, who wants all the little ones to gather around and watch Die Hard, his favorite Christmas movie. Your sister-in-law Heather, who gives you that look whenever you take seconds on dessert, and you’re just so done.
Let's just be honest. There is not enough coffee, wine, or Benadryl in the world to make this experience enjoyable, much less both merry and bright.
Which is a shame, because Christmas is meant to be celebrated in fullness. Our God gave us a Savior while we were living a death sentence. Load your plate, pile the gifts high, stay up too late talking around the fire – live fully into this new life. It's a sad state that, sometimes, the people we have to circle up with at the holidays make the true spirit of Christmas so much harder to see. More than we live in the freedom offered in the promise of Christ, we can struggle under the weight of all our relatives' expectations of us, obliged to make their Christmas as merry and bright as we can, at the expense of our own.
But, hear me now: Your family's expectations of Christmas are not your responsibility. And their negative emotional response to you choosing not to spend your Christmas meeting those expectations is not your fault.
Now, that’s not to say that you’ll be spared the experience of their negative emotions, or even that said experience won’t be difficult, but the negative emotions themselves are not your burden to bear. We talk with couples all the time who are planning holiday events, birthday parties, and weddings around avoiding a particular family member’s negative emotions. And we've all walked one of these roads before, or one like them:
If you go to your home church where your kids are comfortable instead of mom’s church on Christmas Eve, mom pouts through dinner.
If you can’t afford to participate in the lavish gift exchange, Grandma won’t speak to you all day, or worse, she might cry and say how disappointed she is.
If your old Uncle Gustav doesn't get to stand next to his favorite niece in every wedding photo, he'll be impossible when he inevitably gets drunk at the reception.
If you don't get your son a ridiculous, massive Paw Patrol novelty cake for his birthday, your father-in-law will subtly imply that you don't love your kids enough all afternoon.
Here's the thing - the most important thing we always have to remember: Christmas, baptisms, weddings, anniversaries, even birthdays all have one thing in common, besides being awesome excuses to throw a party. They are all public celebrations of private decisions. A birthday isn't just a way to say "hey, way to still be breathing today," but instead a remembrance of a year's worth of choices that moved you from wherever you were on this day last year, and all the years before, to now. Anniversaries are the same, just two people remembering. Weddings are where you invite all your family and friends to support and celebrate your decision to spend the rest of your life with one person. Baptisms are the earthly extension of the friggin' bonanza going on in heaven every time another of one of God's kids comes home. And Christmas - Christmas is that glorious time every year when we remember that God himself made the decision to take on flesh, be born, live perfectly, and die sacrificially, so that we might live with Him in heaven. Christmas is not about making your parents, your in-laws, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your kids, or even yourself happy. Christmas is about remembering the beginning of the fulfillment of God's promise to send a Savior. Anything (or anyone) that gets in the way of that remembrance is something to which you, frankly, owe nothing. Your Christmas is His own. Remember it.