Christmas is a holiday marketed and built on tradition, expectations, and memories. And, as we tend to find comfort in the predictable, that can make it especially hard to adjust when Christmas changes. Shifting family dynamics, the arrival of new life and passing of others, weather, work, and travel challenges are just some of the many influences that can throw your “usual” Christmas experience unexpectedly (and possibly unwelcome-ly) in a different direction.
As I reflect, I’ve certainly had some varied Christmases. Some have been lean-er and some more abundant. There have been some really sad Christmases after losing loved ones and joyful ones like Christmas after getting married. Christmas has been quiet when there weren’t children and beautifully nuts when there were. Sacred, silly, meaningful, monotonous, easy and challenging, all in a handful of years.
But even though no two Christmases have been exactly alike, sometimes I still find myself really hanging on to a specific picture of what Christmas “should” be. I suspect this isn’t healthy since it makes me feel more like the Grinch than like Jesus, so I went looking for a little wisdom. And I found it right where you might expect, flowing from the pen of King Solomon.
It turns out Christmas, like life, was never designed to remain the same year in and year out. God’s Word tells us that everything goes through seasons, so it makes sense that we should expect the same for Christmas. To that end, let us breathe in these words from the wisest man who ever lived. It’s amazing what a reminder about the inevitability of change may do to calm our holiday hearts…
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NIV)
Yes, my fellow fighters of Christmas change, find comfort in this. Just as this list of seasons applies to our lives, it applies to Christmas. It means our holidays are going to look different sometimes and that’s really…normal. For all of us who tend to grip our vision and traditions with a choke-hold, this list reminds us to let go so it can survive…and so we can love. We have to give all things the freedom to become what they need to be in their season. The changes that sometimes come with Christmas time are just like the ones that come with life…
They are under His control,
they are covered by His love,
and they do not surprise Him.
So, if you are encountering a different Christmas this year, take heart. A shifting Christmas experience is just part of the overall design of life. Ultimately, it is a chance for us to trust God with the changes. And, it is a chance for us to worship and remember that He never, ever does.
He knows exactly what Christmas we need this year.
Happy birthday Jesus. Excited to see what You have planned.